“Philip Stephens is an uncommon writer: lyrical, frank, gothic by turns, his prose draws us into uncharted worlds and minds. He transforms small-town Missouri into a mythical landscape, peopled by lonely misfits of Faulknerian proportions. Miss Me When I’m Gone is a novel you will never forget.”
“Miss Me When I’m Gone is a lavishly written, vividly imagined, and wholly compelling work of fiction. Philip Stephens has an unfailing ear for the rhythms (and subtle treacheries) of human speech, which gives this book its unusual immediacy and power, as if the reader is eavesdropping on the life-or-death conversations of travelers on a train. I was spellbound. Often, in fact, I was in awe.”
“Lost and living by their wits, Philip Stephens’s wise and foolish people drift along the hardscrabble edges of America, some trying to escape the past, some to reclaim it. Miss Me When I’m Gone mixes the barbed language of Denis Johnson with the eternal verities of roots music. This is a rich and beautiful debut.”
“Philip Stephens knows a lot–about music, religion, the great Midwest, life in a small town. What he knows the most about, however, is the plain old human heart. At various times throughout this elegant, moving first-novel, he wrote scenes that broke mine, because I had come to care so much for the people I found in these pages. Stephens is a special writer, and this is a special book. I was sorry when it ended.”
“Of the many kinds of middle-American weirdness, Missouri’s is underreported. Yet it’s a deep vein running beneath that hilly landscape, where bad things happen in trailers. Daniel Woodrell (Winter’s Bone) explores this world in his “Ozark noirs.” Philip Stephens finds more of a gothic vibe. His Miss Me When I’m Gone is about a folk singer who tries to go home. Things get dark; there’s a “hog-eyed man.” Choice dialogue, from a parade: “‘We like them Shriners,’ the wife said, packing her cheek. ‘Those itty-bitty cars are something to see.’”
John Jeremiah Sullivan, GQ
“. . . Stephens’ voice has the clarity of an aged banjo, and resonates like a catchy sing-along. An enchanting success.
Jonathan Fullmer, Booklist
Music writer and poet Stephens (The Determined Days) turns out a debut novel that reads like a murder ballad. . . . [Readers] will appreciate Stephens’s determination to comprehend our darkest natures and motivations, a mission accomplished with a rueful swagger.
Stephens has written a novel that illuminates the slow decline and degradation of Middle America, a topic he clearly feels passionately about. . . . I recommend Miss Me When I’m Gone to anyone who is unafraid of facing an honest story that takes you deep into the world of struggling musicians, desperate mothers, meth addicts, sinful preachers, and an array of successes and failures that make up the realistic characters Stephens has created.
Michael Carey, Neworld Review
“A quirky and memorable story.” Billy Heller, New York Post
“[In] Philip Stephens’s rich debut novel . . . the magic realism of Garcia Marquez or a Vargas Llosa operates in a setting that evokes Twain, Faulkner, and O’Connor . . . in a river of song flowing beneath the Ozarks.”
Michael Ray Taylor, Chapter 16