Before You Go
“Hats off to that brave soul daring to write what might be called speculative literary fiction, and willing to venture answers to questions beyond even those of life & death. Tommy Butler’s debut novel Before You Go has a big beating heart and a mind all its own.” — Joshua Ferris, author of The Dinner Party and Then We Came to the End
A big, rich, life-affirming debut that explores the most perplexing questions of existence: purpose, the pain of loneliness, the desire for happiness, and the price we pay as we search for fulfillment.
In the Before, humankind is created with a hole in its heart, the designers not realizing their mistake—if it was a mistake—until too late.
Elliot Chance is just a boy, and knows nothing of this. All he knows is that he doesn’t feel at home in this world, and his desire for escape becomes more urgent as he grows into adulthood, where the turbulence of life seems to offer no cure for the emptiness. Desperate and lost, he stumbles upon a support group on the edge of Manhattan. There he meets two other drifting souls—Sasha, a young woman who leaves coded messages in the copy she writes for advertising campaigns, and Bannor, whose detailed depictions of the future make Elliot think he may have actually been there. With these two unlikely allies, Elliot launches into the business of life, determined to be happy in spite of himself.
Yet the hole in the heart is not so easily filled.
Profound yet playful, Before You Go is a beautiful, imaginative journey into the ache and wonder of being human, and the quest for a meaningful life.
Praise For Before You Go: A Novel…
— Joshua Ferris, author of The Dinner Party and Then We Came to the End
“In Before You Go, Tommy Butler binds together magic and reality; wit and sincerity; big questions and small moments; deep sadness and an aching, rising joy. The result is a kaleidoscope of a novel that honors the complexity of life.”
— Katie Williams, author of Tell the Machine Goodnight
“Tommy Butler’s Before You Go explores human longing in its many forms—desire, curiosity, ambition—and how it tethers us to this world. It asks not only why we keep going, but how. I came away from this book feeling renewed, and holding on to my own imperfect life more tightly and gratefully. Butler’s writing is insightful, quick-witted, and warm. What a marvelous debut.”
— Maggie Smith, author of Good Bones
“Alluring. Magical. And painfully real. Will make your heart ache in all the right ways. A triumph for all of us who’ve suspected there’s something missing deep within."
— Matthew Quick, New York Times bestselling author of The Silver Linings Playbook
“Butler brilliantly imagines the creation of human life, and the toll its imperfection takes . . . . Beautiful, heart-wrenching prose . . . Butler’s treatise on the value of life with all its moments of darkness and light leaves the reader with aching gratitude for their existence.”
— Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“This book blew me away… Butler has this incredible way of writing that pulls you in to even the most mundane-seeming experience, and makes you realize it’s actually quite profound… an emotional and fascinating speculation on the human experience.”
— Reader Haven
"Inventive and profound."
"The story of a young man struggling with depression alternates with chapters about an unorthodox version of heaven in this warm debut novel. . . . Wryly humorous . . . fun and often insightful . . . Butler creates likable characters, and his prose is polished and inviting."
Harper, 9780062934963, 272pp.
Publication Date: August 11, 2020
About the Author
Tommy Butler was raised in Stamford, Connecticut, and has since called many places home, including New Hampshire, San Diego, Boston, New York City, and San Francisco. A graduate of Dartmouth College and Harvard Law School, he was a Peter Taylor Fellow at the Kenyon Review Writers Workshop and is an alumnus of the Screen-writers Colony. His feature screenplay, Etopia, was the winner of the Showtime Tony Cox Screenplay Competition at the Nantucket Film Festival.