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Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan

Songs for the Missing
By Stewart O'Nan
Completed May 25, 2008

I cannot imagine one of my sons disappearing into thin air. The panic, the fear, the anger, the questions – it would be all too much to bear. In Songs for the Missing, Stewart O’Nan tackled this topic head on, and after finishing this page-turner (I finished the book in one day), I was left exhausted and heart-broken. Despite the devastating topic, though, I am glad to have read this spellbinding novel.

The story is about the disappearance of Kim Larsen, Kim was pretty, popular and counting the days until she left for college. One afternoon, Kim did not show up for work. It wasn’t until almost dawn when her parents detected that she was missing. They called the police and the search for Kim was on.

Each chapter of Songs for the Missing was written from a different person’s viewpoint. At first, Kim had her voice until she went missing. Then, her father, mother, sister, boyfriend and best friend each “took turns” telling about the search, their hope for a positive outcome and how they tried to cope with the day-to-day aspects of living.

As days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months, you saw how each character realized that Kim might not return home. Each character dealt with the grief in different ways. I specifically thought the age-relevance of each character was realistic. The teenagers were equally scared about their fates as the police investigation uncovered drug use; the younger sister dealt with (again) being in her sister’s shadow; the mother worked furiously, advocating for missing persons; and the father struggled emotionally, financially and psychologically but never wanted to show these “weaknesses” to his loved ones.

Their plight was so realistic and heart breaking. Thanks to O’Nan’s superb writing style, you could not help but be drawn to these characters and wonder what happened to Kim. I kept hoping that Kim would be found alive because I wanted these characters to have a “happily ever after” ending. I was so invested in each one of their lives that their grief was my own.

This is my first Stewart O’Nan book, but it certainly won’t be my last. His writing style was gripping and the way he drew his characters reminded me of Jodi Picoult. I highly recommend Songs for the Missing to anyone. I don’t think any reader of literary fiction could be disappointed with this engaging story. ( )


( 4 comments — Leave a comment )
May. 26th, 2008 05:20 pm (UTC)
Jill - a really honest review! The story sounds so heartbreaking - as with so many books in this genre I agree they are truly compelling.
May. 26th, 2008 06:29 pm (UTC)
I can't even bring myself to read all of your review- the idea of something happening to my boys just kills me! I'm sure it was a great book...

Lisa (books lists life)
May. 27th, 2008 01:52 am (UTC)
Jill: I'm nearly 1/2 done with this book - if I wasn't so sleep deprived from working 8 days straight, I'd probably already have finished it. Riveting. And I gotta hand it to O'Nan - so far he is SPOT ON with his depiction of how Sheriff's departments/police and Search and Rescue teams handle missing people. I'm impressed by that because rarely does an author get it right. This is my first O'Nan - and like you, it will not be my last.

May. 29th, 2008 04:19 am (UTC)
What a heartfelt review. What heartache! I'm not sure I'm up to reading it, especially the mood I've been in lately.
( 4 comments — Leave a comment )

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