The Presence of Absence

“A moving, brilliant book.”—Ann Beattie
“Impossible to resist.”
—Ilya Kaminsky

As a young writer lies dying, he has one last story to tell. A tale of devotion and a meditation on what might lie beyond death, this is Simon Van Booy at his visionary best.

Max Little is bedridden in a New York hospital. “Language is a map,” he reflects, “leading to a place not on the map.” As the hours slip away, Max recalls both the moving and ordinary moments of his life with his beloved wife Hadley, unsure of what lies ahead.

Simon Van Booy is not only a master storyteller but a writer of fiction rich with philosophical insights into things both mapped and undiscovered. In this innovative novel infused with poetic clarity and graced with humor, he asks the reader to find beauty—even gratitude—in the cycle of birth and death.

The Presence of Absence is a deeply affecting story that parts the darkness to reveal what has been just out of sight all along.


The Presence of Absence amazed me. It’s so deftly, delicately written, it seems as if real breeze is blowing—this, in the context of serious, sad subject matter. It’s a perfect integration of form and content, though who would have imagined it this way except Simon Van Booy? Reading it made me think about the many things hidden in and from our lives that appear only when they do. It’s a moving, brilliant book.”
Ann Beattie, author of A Wonderful Stroke of Luck

The Presence of Absence is impossible to resist. Consistently insightful, symphonic in the music of its thought. A captivating fable that echoes in the mind long after the book is finished.”
Ilya Kaminsky, author of Deaf Republic 

The Presence of Absence is unfaltering in its tenet that if we’re here for nothing else, it’s to keep others going. That who we are is determined by our part in the ongoing story of others, and that we should celebrate that. Or rather, we must.”
Cynan Jones, author Stilliside

Simon Van Booy is the award-winning and best-selling author of thirteen books, including Love Begins in Winter (winner of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award) and Everything Beautiful Began After, which Andre Dubus III called, “A powerful meditation on the undying nature of love and the often cruel beauty of one’s own fate.” He has written for The New York Times, The Guardian, National Public Radio, the BBC and the Chinese edition of Elle, where he wrote the “New Yorker” column for eight years. Van Booy’s books have been translated into many languages. When Van Booy was 17, he received a full scholarship to play American football at a university in Kentucky and later lived in a rural part of that state for several years. Now based in New York City, Van Booy has returned regularly to Kentucky for the past two decades.