Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone is a twelve story collection that throws readers headlong into the deepest depths of the human heart. Each story explores the real life vulnerability people deal with in their darkest hours while seamlessly enchanting the reader with characters that are magically fantastic. Readers will find themselves lost in the mix of these lovely yet terrifying stories.
“The Return to Monsterland” is the opening story in the collection where a man listens to his wife gush admirably over Godzilla who, moments later, kills her and everyone else in the train car she was occupying. It continues to tell the story of a beautifully broken father daughter pair trying to find their way while also struggling to understand the beauty of the creatures that severed their family.
Equally as heartbreaking, Momotaro and the samurai’s daughter in the story “The Peach Boy” try in vain to conceive a child year after year. Each pregnancy ends too early, “producing a peach pit with the face of a crying boy or girl.” Nagamatsu delves into the curse of infertility that many couples deal with in such a beautiful way that by the end of this story, readers will find themselves smiling in delight and surprise as the characters fill the void they felt was missing from their lives.
In Sequoia Nagamatsu’s namesake story, a character remarks, “Separated by chain, we said all the things people are supposed to say when they know they aren’t going to see each other again.” She is part of a seemingly never ending dance party, but when you do stop dancing, you are reborn with no memory of your previous life. Nagamatsu has weaved these characters into mystical worlds while also grounding them in the modern everyday problems that readers everywhere will be able to relate.
From Godzilla to shape-shifters, babies born from peaches to babies made of snow, and a room full of figurines representing the life that was taken too early, Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone is filled to the brim with imagination and wonder. The duality with which Nagamatsu writes true human struggle into mystical, genre-bending tales is astounding. He has succeeded in writing stories that demonstrate the rawness of the human heart, loss of children and parents, the lingering what if’s, and the circular nature of life, while also bringing a smile to every reader’s face.