And this one pretty much lived up to expectations. Songs for the Missing, by Stewart O'Nan (New York, 2008) isn't the first families-of-missing-teens book I've read (see The Local News, for one), but it's definitely one of the best -- probably because it neither wraps things up neatly, nor does the usual tug-at-the-tear-ducts stuff you might expect.
Summary: "An enthralling portrait of one family in the aftermath of a daughter's disappearance. 'It was the summer of her Chevette, of J.P. and letting her hair grow.' It was also the summer when, without warning, popular high school student Kim Larsen disappeared from her small midwestern town. Her loving parents, her introverted sister, her friends and boyfriend must now do everything they can to find her. As desperate search parties give way to pleading television appearances, and private investigations yield to personal revelations, we see one town’s intimate struggle to maintain hope and, finally, to live with the unknown. Stewart O'Nan's new novel begins with the suspense and pacing of a thriller and soon deepens into an affecting family drama of loss. On the heels of his critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling Last Night at the Lobster, Songs for the Missing is an honest, heartfelt account of one family's attempt to find their child. With a soulful empathy for these ordinary heroes, O'Nan draws us into the world of this small American town and allows us to feel a part of this family."
A good, solid read. In addition to Kim's parents and sister, Lindsey, we also see how her disappearance reverberates in the lives of her boyfriend, J.P., and her best friend, Nina. Certain small details are handled especially well: J.P. and Nina's guilt, first at not telling and then at telling the police about Kim's connection to a skanky, 30-year-old drug dealer (no, he didn't do it); the Larsens' inclination to both overprotect Lindsey in the wake of her sister's disappearance, and shelter her from too much direct involvement with the search; their struggle to visit and explain things to Roger's elderly, nursing home-bound mother; the over-the-top cheesy memorial buttons and songs that flow from the community; the local crazy lady (doesn't every town have one?) whose obsession with the case ultimately leads to an important discovery. If I had a book club, this would be a good book club book.
- Ithaca, New York
- MWF, now officially 42, loves long walks on the beach and laughing with friends ... oh, wait. By day, I'm a mid-level university administrator reluctant to be more specific on a public forum. Nights and weekends, though, I'm a homebody with strong nerdist leanings. I'm never happier than when I'm chatting around the fire, playing board games, cooking up some pasta, and/or road-tripping with my family and friends. I studied psychology and then labor economics in school, and I work in higher education. From time to time I get smug, obsessive, or just plain boring about some combination of these topics, especially when inequality, parenting, or consumer culture are involved. You have been warned.