“She’s Gone” by Joye Emmens is the story of Jolie and her spiritual, intellectual and emotional quest of growing up. In 1969, fifteen year old Jolie decides to go against her parent’s wishes for her future and runs away with her secret twenty-four year old boyfriend named Will. Will is a handsome, charismatic activist. Jolie was first drawn to him over their shared interest in environmental activism. Will is attracted to Jolie because of her innocence and beauty. Unfortunately for Jolie, he starts treating her like she is something that he possesses. Because of their age difference, they must stay in hiding. Will plans on working behind the scenes to make a difference in society, however, Jolie soon sees his interests heading more in the direction of radical political activism.
The couple begins living in an isolated commune in northern California. It is very different from the southern California coast, which Jolie is used to. The commune has no electricity or running water, and they live in a dilapidated old miner’s cabin. Jolie notes that the women in this commune tend to do the majority of the chores, and she is a bit embarrassed to find that Will finds himself above these menial duties, so she tries to work harder to make up for him. When it is time to move on, they head further up north and end up in a much nicer communal type living situation. Jolie still finds it uncomfortable to be faced with adult issues that she hadn’t anticipated, like the men in these places who believe in free love.
In time, the couple finds themselves hopping on a bus to hide out in a city on the east coast. The harsh realities of city-living hits Jolie hard. She also discovers that she is the one that has to be the breadwinner because Will wants to focus on his activism. Realizing that Will has no interest and is disdainful towards Jolie’s interests is very painful for her. He is the only one that knows the truth about her age, so it is not easy for her to be open with other people. Her interest in the environment continues and she also discovers a passion for the women’s movement. Using yoga, meditation and studying Buddhism helps calm Jolie’s mind through the hardships that she faces. She also desperately misses her family. Jolie is growing up quickly and shouldering responsibilities way beyond what someone her age should have to handle. In time she realizes that it is up to her to determine what she needs to do for her future.
I truly loved reading, “She’s Gone.” I actually sat down just to read a few pages before I went somewhere. Several hours later, I found myself still reading and unable to stop until I finished. Jolie’s story really reached out to me. I could relate to her feelings of not fitting in and know what it was like to be flattered that an older man was interested in her. Fortunately for me, I didn’t make the same choices that she did! I loved that she fought to hang on to her individual identity, even though her older boyfriend was trying to turn her into a beautiful puppet he could manipulate. In spite of the hard times, she also pursued her own interests and continued to want to make a difference. Her immersion into Buddhism really helped her to emotionally deal with the crazy things that were going on around her.
I highly recommend “She’s Gone” by Joye Emmens for young adults and people who just enjoy immersing themselves in a really good story. Children of the 1960’s will also enjoy going back into this time period.