While You Were Gone


An IPPY Silver Medal Winner!

Listen to Sybil talk about WHILE YOU WERE GONE at WUTC Public Radio 

With echoes of Shakespeare’s King Lear and Chekhov’s Three Sisters, Baker’s novel deftly mines the personal histories of Claire, the eldest, followed by Shannon and then Paige, as they grow from gangly adolescents in 1995 to morally conflicted women in 2011, spinning away from and back to the city that both buoys them and sucks them down into its vortex of social and racial tensions.” 

Chapter 16

WHILE YOU WERE GONE is an open-hearted and complex story of an amazing family, told with such confidence that I could not put it down. Sybil Baker has the enviable ability to populate her work with characters who feel so nuanced and real that you can’t believe that you haven’t always known these people, that they haven’t always been a part of your life. And when I finished this beautiful story, I found myself unable to forget them.


As a storyteller, Baker knows revelation is the consoler of plot and that time exists to mourn chronology. As an artist, Baker casts a bite-mark on that vividly tragic fruit as one awed into suddenness and then as three in the twilight of playing dress-up. As a voice, Baker quotes shadows beyond the reach of comment.


Baker prioritizes the subjectivity of her characters, giving each of them a comprehensive voice, making their values conflict interestingly without making any of their perspectives unreasonable.

Heavy Feather Review 

With faint gothic overtones of a Faulknerian saga, the past operates as something never resolved but an invitation to a perpetual haunting instead, one that is embraced, confronted, or, in the case of one of these sisters, entirely re-invented into a tenable future for the family that will know no center.                                                                                    

 The Literary Review

While You Were Gone’s non-traditional, non-chapter format is a compelling division of storytelling – allowing for ingesting its developing sequences while encouraging personal retrospective reflections.

Fjords Review (Midlist Review Reviewer’s Book Watch)

Throughout all this, adulthood is depicted as a quiet, understated process of slowly letting go of the dreams of youth, at times painful and at times peaceful.

The Lit Pub

Articles and Interviews

Interview and Review Gold Dust Magazine p. 38-39.

Conversations: Sybil Baker and Laura Catherine Brown The Critical Flame

Novelists Sybil Baker and Katie Rogin in Conversation: On Trauma, America’s Endless Wars and Coming Home Anomaly

Meet Sybil Baker, The Contemporary Southern Woman Little Pink Book

While You Were Gone Chattanooga Pulse