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Songs For The Missing [Hardcover]

Stewart Onan
4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
Price: CDN$ 26.50 & FREE Shipping. Details
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Book Description

Nov. 4 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 American town and allows us to feel a part of this family.

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About the Author

Stewart O'Nan is the author of ten novels, including Snow Angels and A Prayer for the Dying, as well as works of nonfiction, including the bestselling book with Stephen King on the Boston Red Sox, Faithful. Granta named him one of the twenty Best Young American Novelists in 1995. He lives with his family in Avon, Connecticut. --This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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4.0 out of 5 stars A Haunting Tale June 30 2008
Songs for the Missing is about a teenaged girl who goes missing, and the struggle of her family, friends, and community to deal with grief, fear and the unknown. The story belongs, ultimately, not to Kim but to those she left behind.

I found the characters to be very relatable. I could see myself in all of them, and even when I didn't agree with the decisions they made, I understood why they made them. I do wish their feelings and characters could have been explored more fully, but with so many characters it would have been quite difficult to do so without getting in the way of the plot.

It was hard for me to read at points, not because it was slow, but because it was so real. If you personally know someone who has gone missing, this will probably be a very hard book for you to read.

There were parts that weren't as developed as I would have liked, and the ending seemed kind of rushed, and not as fulfilling as I had hoped. I would still recommend it, but it's not the kind of book I would reread again and again. That said, I will never forget it.

Also recommended: The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 3.3 out of 5 stars  75 reviews
47 of 49 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars How sudden loss affects a family Sept. 2 2008
By C. Anderson - Published on
Meet Kim Larsen. She is eighteen years old, pretty and popular, and about a month away from leaving for college and the wider world. She can hardly wait. Like most small town kids, she and her friends chafe from the sameness and boredom of daily life. They drink more than they should and experiment a bit with drugs. But they are good kids at heart and are so looking forward to going away, being on their own, growing up.

Then, somewhere in the short distance between her home and her workplace, she seemingly vanishes into thin air. No trace of her, or her car. No one has seen anything. She's just gone. This is the story of those left behind. The author changes the point of view for each chapter and the reader feels the reaction of each person: Mom, Dad, sister, best friend, boyfriend. We see how they react and try to cope with the reality of Kim's loss.

Her Mom Fran gets organized, makes lists, makes calls, starts a website, talks to the press.

Her Dad Ed gets outside, taking the lead in the numerous searches that start immediately and continue for months.

Her younger sister Lindsay retreats into herself, a book, her I-Pod, the tv, the computer. Anything to keep people away. Especially her parents who can't resist the impulse to smother their remaining child with protectiveness. More than anyone else, this is her story.

Young girls disappear every day, not only in the US but around the world. Many are never seen again and their fates are often never known. Songs for the Missing gives you a glimpse of the flattening anguish and grief that the loved ones suffer when this happens.

Despite the emotional subject matter, this book is a surprisingly easy read. The author's smooth and comfortable style allow the reader to sink into the story, empathize with the characters, be a member of that family. Stewart O'Nan is a talented writer who has written a book that will resonate long after you finish it.
10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tough Topic - Well Done Nov. 9 2008
By My2Cents - Published on
What would do if your teen aged daughter disappeared without a trace? When--if ever--do you stop looking for her?

This is exactly what happens to Kim Larsen, age 18, popular, a small town Ohio girl just weeks before she is to leave for college. She spends an afternoon at the lake with her friends then never shows up for work that evening and is never seen again. It is not until the next morning that her parents, and 15 year old sister, realize Kim is missing.

The book starts out like a mystery, but it soon becomes very much a character study about how people act when a family is in crisis. When one person keeps themselves busy and involved every minute of the day, others may turn inward and shut the world out. What if normal grieving? Is there such a thing? Do remaining family members grow closer or more distant in times of crisis such as this. These are the questions I found myself thinking about as I read this book.

I expected that this book would be more of a mystery. So initially I was a bit disappointed, but it still was very very well written, and I am not sorry that I read it.

O'Nan is a really good author, and even when his books are not necessarily what you might have expected, I have always found them enjoyable.
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feels very real Feb. 16 2009
By Z Hayes - Published on
Reading "Songs for the Missing" wasn't easy, in fact it was excruciating - the subject matter centering on a young girl's disappearance and the effect on her family, friends and community is heartrending and it was painful to read about these people coping with their loss and grief.

When 18-year-old Kim Larsen disappears from her small Ohio town of Kingsville, her family, friends and community are mobilized to quick action. But then time passes, and those close to Kim realise they need to make a conscientious attempt at getting back to a semblance of normality - her parents, her sister [who finds herself being overshadowed by her beautiful, popular sister even when she's missing], Kim's boyfriend, friends etc - the book basically follows what happens to people when someone they know goes missing, with no real resolution.

This is not a traditional thriller or crime procedural - there's not a set of clues that helps one determine Kim's fate. On the contrary, it's a searing narrative with characters that are very real and who try to put their lives together despite a great tragedy.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars too bad June 8 2009
By Ryan Van Baalen - Published on
I really can't put my finger on this one...

On one hand, I know the author was creating a sense of tedium trying to convey the empty and hopeless feeling of Kim's family.

On the other hand, this book was soooooooo boring. Like another reviewer said, I WANT TO KNOW more about Kim's friends and the secrets they had with the ex-marine. You might say O'Nan didn't fill us in because he wanted to leave us with wondering (much like Kim's parents)...maybe,I don't know.....BUT, if that was the case, then why did he spend countless pages detailing some girl's quest to put her dead mother's house on the market for 95k instead of the 89k that Ed suggested? How does that contribute to the story?

I know, I know...I just don't get it. The book is supposed to show us how the world keeps dragging along at its slow and uneventful pace even after a horrible abduction...but I could barely finish this one.

Even the last ten pages...hoping for a haunting conclusion, left me instead with nothing. *shrugs*
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "Hope is a good thing." Jan. 16 2009
By Luan Gaines - Published on
This novel has received much acclaim for its unsparing, detailed dissection of the aftermath of a vital young woman's disappearance from her Midwestern town, yet another sad statistic in a growing body of such victims. The country has long been fascinated with the stories of such people, most often the objects of foul play; but as many families know, closure is infrequent and arbitrary, more likely endless years of never knowing the fate of a loved one. Such is the tragedy of Kim Larsen, a teen about to leave for college who disappears on her way to work one scorching summer afternoon, her family soon trapped in an endless cycle of hope and grief. It is this slow agony that O'Nan captures so perfectly, the first day stretching into months, a year, the family falling into what has become a ritual of search parties, fund-raising events and public service requests for the public's support.

While Kim's teenaged friends keep their own counsel, thereby hindering the immediate investigation, Kim's mother, father and younger sister experience the immediate trauma of a family member who simply never comes home again. Whatever trouble the teens are hiding- and this is never fully revealed- the fact causes a rift between Kim's family and friends that remains unresolved by the close of the novel, only one of the subtle reminders that often there simply are no answers. Not so the response of the family and community in crisis, everyone turning out for search parties, posting missing notices, a rush of press interviews, anything to increase awareness in those first critical hours.

The novel's content is its strength and the cause of my ambivalence, an endless diary of endurance as parents devote themselves to the search for their daughter, nearly obliterating life as they have known it. The familiar is rendered obsolete as one of them literally vanishes from the family unit, days become dreary rounds of details, an operation that allows little time for grieving. Hence my ambivalence: the endless trivia of searching for Kim leaches passion and personality from the characters, automatons in their activities, building an effective organization. In the end, Fran, Ed and fifteen-year-old Lindsay are no different than any of us, normal lives forever destroyed by a stunning, irreparable loss. O'Nan asks nothing more of his characters than that they survive. The result is the flat, desperate day-to-day endurance of reality, the detritus of daily duty in black and white without color or passion, Kim's family as victimized as their daughter and sister. Luan Gaines/ 2009.
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