Review – Songs For The Missing by Stewart O’Nan

Coming October 2008


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 Midwestern town and allows us to feel a part of this family.


Have you ever wondered what you would do if your child, sibling, lover, friend or neighbour went missing?

Songs For The Missing is the latest novel from, multiple award-winning writer, Stewart O'Nan. In this novel, you will find out exactly how a small town in Midwestern USA deals with the disappearance of a local high school girl. Kim Larsen begins the narrative while going through her daily life. This sets up a very good look at the relationships she has with family and friends and gives us a glimpse into her hopes and ambitions for the future. But suddenly with no forewarning, Kim simply vanishes.

From here on out the book is told from the perspectives of certain family members and friends. From the viewpoint of her parents, we come to understand how they feel while learning and undergoing the various ways to handle a missing child. Particularly interesting is the encounters they have with local police and FBI officials, both parents must reluctantly put their trust into these people to guide them while also trying to have faith that officials are doing as much as they can possibly do. From organizing search parties, printing posters and contacting online organizations, these parents give a detailed plan that would be valuable to any parent going through this themselves.

However, as upsetting as Kim's disappearance may be to her parents, her younger sister Lindsay appears to be the emotional center of the book. Although the two sisters are not all that close it becomes clear in Lindsay's narration that her older sister is the hero she strives to emulate. Throughout the novel Lindsay's guilt, love and bitterness towards her sister are revealed. Although Songs For The Missing is about a missing girl, it is obvious that this is merely a plot line devised to showcase Lindsay and how her life must change and evolve while suffering the loss and unknowable circumstances of her older sister.

To fulfill the thriller aspect of the novel, O'Nan has thrown in some sketchy characters to build suspicion and a secret between Kim and her friends that is not revealed when she is initially reported missing, but that builds tension between the characters throughout the story.

Songs For The Missing is a emotionally charged story that anyone can relate to which creates a wonderful drama, however the mystery portion seems to falter towards the ending. From the climax, the plot needed to have gradually wound down, tying up the loose ends in a neater way to add a more powerful ending. Overall a very good read, that has prompted me to search out previous works by Stewart O'Nan.

Author Website - Stewart O'Nan

© 2008-2010 Joanne Mosher of The Book Zombie. All rights reserved.


skrishna said...

I've read this as well, and had very mixed feelings on it. Great review though!

Dewey said...

This sounds really good!

Book Zombie said...

It was totally worth reading. I love it when I find a new author, after finishing this one I picked up Night Country by O'Nan (hopefully it's good too)