The Absent Woman by Marlene Lee


Virginia Johnstone, suffering from an unhappy marriage, leaves her family in Seattle and travels north to live alone, study piano with a gifted musician, and discover the significance of one of the rooms she sublets from “the absent woman”.

In the small fishing town of Hilliard, Washington, at the edge of Pudget Sound, Virginia Johnstone learns to live a life quite different from the one she has been accustomed to. In so doing, she retains her relationship with her sons and solves a personal dilemma.

About the author:

Who is Marlene Lee?

A recent graduate of the MFA Fiction-Writing program at Brooklyn College.
A writer of novels who has found her publisher, Holland House Books and its mystery imprint, Grey Cells Press.
A pianist.
A slow but earnest student of Antoine Matondo, official French tutor of the Lakota Coffeehouse in Columbia where she is in nearly permanent residence at a table in back, reading, drinking lattes, and writing sentences that are too long.

(Read more about Marlene Lee on her author page at Holland House)

What is being said about The Absent Woman

Review by Harper Collins author

Ella Leffland

(Rumors of Peace; The Knight, Death, and the Devil)

The Absent Woman is the story of Virginia Johnstone, who, in search of herself, has left her husband, her two young children, and her safe, comfortable, boringly conventional life, and has driven from her Seattle home to a small coastal town where she moves into an old, ramshackle hotel.

The theme of the discontented runaway wife has been put to novelistic use again and again, but The Absent Woman is fresh, original, compelling—a book wonderfully written, clear, deft, specific, while at the same time beautifully poetic, not only in its descriptions of nature, but of small, often overlooked things.

Virginia has an observant eye.  The people she meets, some of whom become of great importance to her, are brought to keenest life, as are her thoughts, her fears and hopes in this new milieu.  It is a book often painful in her unflinchingly honest self-searchings.  It is also very moving, never sentimental, in the deepness and compassion of her feelings.  And it is funny as well, given her observant eye and unique dry humor.

It is a novel for all seasons, a novel about life in all its loveliness and anguish, a novel to be remembered.

Interview with Marlene Lee on the Newsletter

Do you have a favourite working/writing place? You mention one Coffee house in your author bio  – do the background sounds and outdoor life stimulate rather than distract? I write at the Lakota Coffeehouse here in Columbia, Missouri, almost always at a table in the back section by the coffee roaster.  Lee, the roast master, is a silent companion.  He makes things go better, not to mention his coffee.  Sometimes I’m distracted, but if the work is going well, a little cocoon is created around me from which I emerge just long enough to be reminded of the real world.    Can you remember your first/earliest written piece (finished!) and what it was inspired by ? It was a pair of patriotic poems about George Washington and Abraham Lincoln.  My wonderful sixth-grade teacher, Miss Mary Benninghoff, of Tulsa, Oklahoma, asked the principal to … (interview continues here)

Author Links

On Facebook    On WordPress

The Absent Woman is available to order from Holland House Books:

and will be launching in April via the main distribution channels.

About the publisher:

Holland House publishes quality literary fiction, and through its dedicated imprints, the best in genre fiction. Holland House invests time, energy, finance and expertise in the work they present.

Holland House website


Grey Cells Press    Caerus Press    Lost World Press


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