Thursday, June 10, 2010

My next person-gone-missing novel is "Songs for the Missing" by Stewart O'Nan.

This novel is much more focused on the family left behind after 18-year-old Kim vanishes one summer.

Do her friends know more than they're saying? Is her mother "enjoying" the spotlight? Is her father pulling away from the family? Will her sister let herself out from her shadow?

What has happened to Kim?

The answers to these questions are revealed slowly but surely. There is no a-ha moment here. Just a real-life scenario unwrapped a layer at a time - just like real life.

The only thing that kept me from fully getting lost in the novel - and it's a failing of mine, certainly not of O'Nan's - was the setting.

Missing takes place here.

The Larsen family lives in Ashtabula County. They talk of Painesville and Mentor and Sandusky.

My first thought was, how cool. But then I started looking for miscues. Perhaps it's the editor in me. Everytime a place or distance was mentioned, I paused and tried to calculate the accuracy.

I've never encountered this need before; just goes to show you how few novels are set in our backyard. I'll wager some Northeast Ohio readers would enjoy the novel more because of its locale.

My personal hangups with setting aside, Missing is a revealing look at the aftermath of tragedy and a family's struggle to cope with the unknown.

- Tricia Ambrose


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