You're Not You book cover

 You’re Not You

“…’You’re Not You’, by the astonishingly gifted debut novelist Michelle Wildgen, is a complex and satisfying dish: a story of intimate strangers and their impact on each other’s lives. What makes this novel so enticing is the smartly self-mocking young narrator, Bec, and the lovely, unlucky Kate.”

– Cathleen Medwick, O Magazine




“Wildgen writes with a fresh, appealing honesty and has done a marvelous job of capturing that youthful moment in our lives when we are like sponges ready to soak up someone else’s character, taste and charm, borrowed elements from which we hope to concoct an authentic, individual self.” – Francine Prose, People Magazine, Critic’s Choice, 4 stars


“…You’re Not You, by the astonishingly gifted debut novelist Michelle Wildgen, is a complex and satisfying dish: a story of intimate strangers and their impact on each other’s lives. What makes this novel so enticing is the smartly self-mocking young narrator, Bec, and the lovely, unlucky Kate.” – Cathleen Medwick, O Magazine


“Wildgen eschews the cliché, and instead provides us with a psychologically acute and complex tale of a young woman who begins to learns, under emotionally difficult circumstances, who she is and what she wants to be. This is one of those first novels that makes you want to reach out to the writer and say, hurry up and write: I want to read your second novel.” – Nancy Pearl, Seattle NPR


“So skillfully rendered it’s hard to believe it is a first novel. I simply couldn’t put this book down.” – Whitney Otto, author of How to Make an American Quilt


“In Michelle Wildgen’s auspicious debut, You’re Not You, a young caregiver falls under the sensual spell of her charge.” – Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair


“Wildgen is after something less treacly and more complicated. Bec makes progress—and mistakes. Kate suffers, but she’s no saint… it’s no less a manly man than Raymond Carver… who comes to mind when Bec cooks without Kate’s tutelage.” – Jennifer Weiner, Elle


“Wildgen writes with lush, fierce clarity about the most private and complex of matters… Startling and smart, a wise, beautiful novel.” – Nancy Reisman, author of The First Desire

“A deeply sensual book, a sort of Natural History of the Senses for foodies. …There is much in this world to savor, Wildgen suggests.” – Lara Tupper, The Believer


“Every year has its first-time author stars, and Wildgen looks to land among them.” – Tampa Tribune

“A remarkably accomplished first novel.” – Toronto Sun


“…Clear and determined, daring to spotlight an almost taboo subject—the need for sex among the sick. …Wildgen’s debut showcases the talent that won her inclusion in Best New American Voices 2004, and should take her further still.” – Publishers Weekly


“An intriguing look at caregiving and the emotional risks and rewards that each person takes and receives. With the help of the well-developed and believable characters, readers become immersed in the story, which makes for a very satisfying read.” – Library Journal


“…[a] fresh, accomplished first novel. Wildgen’s attention to detail demonstrates impressive maturity and skill. No cheap tear-jerker here, but a novel that tackles challenging material with honesty and a clear eye.” – Kirkus Reviews


“She has a pitch-perfect way with detail, allowing the small gestures and words of a character to illuminate the story.” – Akron Beacon Journal




Not long after I saw Evan at the farmers market, he called. Kate and I were in the kitchen making a list of people to call for the ALS Society’s phone drive. I still disliked making these calls, and when her telephone rang I was relieved to have a moment’s reprieve before I had to phone strangers and explain myself through a chain of prepositions: My name is Rebecca, and I am calling for Kate Norris on behalf of …. Sometimes I found myself speaking to another caregiver, and with Kate at my side and the other employer on the other end, we two caregivers would carry on a conversation by proxy.


I was looking over my list of potential donors for ones I recognized when the phone rang. I looked at Kate, who shook her head. Lately she had been screening calls. Her parents, upset about the split, had been leaving long tremulous messages on the machine, reminding Kate that she had “the future” to worry about. “Your father and I are not as strong as you might think, Kathy,” one message had said. “Our house has so many stairs.”


We heard the answering machine pick up and Kate’s voice come on. It was always startling. No matter how many times I heard this greeting, recorded three years ago and never updated, I always stopped and listened. So that was her voice, her true voice: a lower pitch than it was now that her breath was forced into a higher register as her muscles froze up. A tendency to elide the digits of the phone number into each other. She lacked the Wisconsin accent that showed itself in the vowels, like the exaggerated and almost glottal O you heard in smaller towns, like mine. Kate’s voice had been accentless, Midwestern, and fast, a little impatient to finish the message and move on. In a way she hated to hear the old greeting, she’d once admitted, but she couldn’t bring herself to erase it.

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