Songs for the Missing by Stuart O'Nan, centers around the disappearance of an 18 year old girl, Kim Larsen. The search for Kim, the falling apart and coming together of her family, and the reactions of her friends seemed to be spot on. Kim's family, while flawed, seemed to me to be very much the typical American family. Her parents loved her, yet were no longer very close to her, and her younger sister felt like a shadow next to her. Kim's father, Ed, was very much the man of action, looking for his lost daughter, and I thought his character was very well executed. Her mom, Fran, seems less sympathetic on the surface, with all the PR opportunities she involves herself in, but she too is simply a person like her husband. She feels compelled to do something, to fix this. She's a woman who feels comfortable fixing problems, so she approaches this problem with that attitude. If she can just figure out the correct direction to take, she believes she can fix this too.
It was interesting watching Kim's little sister finally grow into someone other than "Kim's Little Sister". It can be difficult being the brainy, nerdy younger sibling of an attractive and popular girl. Her character was also very well done, she was the good daughter, the reliable daughter, and even though she really wanted to be more like her sister, she seemed to come to grips with herself and to understand that this really was her personality.
Much of the book is quite hopeful, but after a while it changes into a novel more about acceptance than hope. Or perhaps I should say, acceptance tinged with hope for any resolution. I knew from the beginning that it wasn't possible for this book to have the happy Hollywood ending I wanted for it. And even though I would have preferred a bit more detail about Kim's death, the unanswered questions in the end were as realistic as the ending itself was. Ultimately it is a story about a family surviving what can only be described as an almost fatal body blow, and learning how to move on. I felt unsatisfied at the conclusion, as if the book wasn't finished all the way. And then I realized that might just be the point the author is making, something like this happening to a family would never be finished, it would never be over. Even after a parent finds their child and buries them, so many questions would remain for that family, that they would carry it with them forever.
Good book, thought provoking, makes you want to hug your kids a couple extra times a day and remember to take some time for them.
(Posted on LibraryThing June 10, 2008)
Wednesday, June 25, 2008