"Songs for the Missing" by Stewart O'Nan
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The Stewart O'Nan website has this description:
“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 Midwestern town and allows us to feel a part of this family.
One sort of ironic note about the book: it involves a lot of press appearances in the effort to find the missing girl (not a spoiler: she is missing as of the second sentence of the book). Then on the back of the book cover the publisher notes that, to bring attention to the book, there will be a "6-city author tour, national publicity, national review & feature attention, and national radio campaign." It seems like sort of a bizarre black-humor reflection of the books' contents!
I've just kinda slowed down on reading lately... :-/
There was a time when I could remember what I read for years at a time but now my mental library is just about full. It's too bad we can't delete the bad ones we've read. I'd like to clear out the junk.
I'm also going to try the Women's Literature book read at B & N in June--the book is Jane Austen's Persuasion which I haven't read.
And in my insanity, I'm also juggling a couple of group reads here on LT. It will either be a very productive month or a too-chaotic one.
Reading several at once will hopefully keep me from galloping through any of them.
Incidentally, does anyone else think the synopsis koolaidmom posted above is reminiscent of The Lovely Bones? That's one of the things that drew me to this book.
Now I'm going to put it aside until the disucssion on the B &N site for the first section is well under way. (OK if I say it outloud in black and white here, hopefully I'll be able to do it that way).
Up until the last chapter of the first section (Stop, Look & Listen) I felt there wasn't really a storyline--that it was more a description of an incident: a girl gone missing and the way her friends and relatives were reacting to it. At last some indication that something else is going on; in hindsight there were a few hints in earlier chapters.
>15 Trismegistus: It's been a while since I read The Lovely Bones. I do remember the protagonist feelling sad over her family's sorrow; that protagonist had a sister, too, didn't she? Sounds like the same general theme but from a radically different viewpoint.
The unexplained disappearance of a child had got to be parents' worst nightmare.
Part of me thinks the circle of friends killed her for her drugs and buried her in the woods.. Maybe I read too much Coben, though.
"Deepest thanks to Trudy, Caitlin and Stephen for dealing with this nightmare come true. My apologies for the scare."
Does that mean it was inspired by a true event that happened close to him? He definately scores on several emotions you'd just about have to be there to know.
>20 thekoolaidmom:--definitely something to ask Stewart O'Nan. It will be interesting talking with him.
I'm looking forward to the discussion starting.
***possible spoilers ahead - reader beware!***
By the later chapters, after one organized event after another for Kim, when they finally got to the one in the football field, the "Circle of Hope," I think I felt like most of the people in the stands. It was time to move on. I almost felt like Kim's mother was more involved in the "advertising" and "celebrity" of her daughter's disappearance at that point than anything else. Maybe never having had to deal with something like this personally myself, I don't understand all the aspects what the family was going through, but I was glad when they found Kim's body, both so that the family could have some kind of closure, but also so that I could move on to my next book.
I don't know if it was just me, but it began to feel like everyone was better off without Kim. Lindsay was first in her class, Nina became studious and responsible. Fran became a stronger, better person.
The POV shifts were odd and sometimes it took me a minute to figure out who was now telling the story. Another issue I had was the overload of details in the beginning. Just the first couple pages, once I got to the 'practicing driving' part it was fine. But I had to force myself to push through those pages.
As for the mother continuing the fundraisers, etc, I thought that was realistic. (Thankfully neither I nor my family have never been in that kind of situation) But I would think that what drove Fran was hope. There's always hope. Nobody would ever accept the death of his or her child until they had concrete proof. In this case, they would continue the search (even though parts of them had accepted that they would never find her alive) until they had a body to bury-- so that she (and they) would finally be at peace.
In fact, I thought that was sort of a weak point. Fran seemed to make a sudden and complete recovery when they found the body. There seemed something a little weird about that—yes, it is closure, but aren't you a little bit sad that now you know for sure she's dead? It seemed like by the funeral she had popped right back into normal life.
On the other hand, I almost wished that the book had ended with the 'Article Lo2-37' chapter and didn't include 'The Grateful Parents' or 'There's No place Like Home'. If the author had chosen to do so, then we wouldn't be exposed to Fran's 'recovery' at all. I thought that choosing to end with Kim's body being found (again keep coming back to this word) was both realistic and unrealistic.
While many missing persons cases do end up solved, there must be twice as many they do not. And even the ones that they can pin the blame on, how many bodies do they find? I really don't know the statistics, but I wish the author had gone with not finding the body. I think the perfect ending would have been Fran with the butterfly pendant.
I don't think so. She'd spent nearly two years grieving and hoping at the same time. With the body, she knew which direction life was going to go, finally. She knew her daughter was dead, with 100% certainty, with the body, unlike with the butterfly necklace, which could have belonged to 1000 other girls. It had been a stepping down process: Kim went missing, a week or so later they found out about Wooze and other secrets, a few weeks later they found the car, a little over a year later they had the confession, and finally they had a body. It wasn't a sudden change. We see it working when she was Christmas shopping, too, when she realized she had nothing for Kim and knew why.
Do you agree, disagree? I'd love to read other reviews for this book.
I thought the editor's comments were interesting, although I didn't post to him.
The author is there this week for questions. I'm looking forward to seeing his comments.
>>Kegsoccer--I'm avoiding reading reviews until I get my review written......
Also, another reason I wasn't on the First Look board so much last week is because Center Stage had Janet Evanovich in, so I visited with her instead.
At the B&N site, the sheer volume of responses, the way they don't carry over from page to page, and the repetitive thoughtless comments were disorientingly confusing.