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Tarri
Posts: 457
Registered: ‎02-26-2007
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Re: Early Chapters



Everyman wrote:
If you knew someone actually living this situation, would you know everything in their head? I think not. So the way O'Nan portrays the characters lets us feel the tension as it would have really been.

But isn't that the difference between journalism and fiction? The reason that fiction can tell more truth than journalism is that while the journalist should only report the facts as he or she perceives them and not try to go beyond that, taking people and facts as they are not as the journalist wishes or hopes they would be, the fiction writer can and, I believe, should know (and convey to the reader, in various ways, directly or indirectly, by outright statement or carefully crafted innuendo) what is in the minds and hearts of the characters which, after all, he or she has created and should know intimately.

Elizabeth George has some good comments on character knowledge and development in her book Write Away. Her basic viewpoint is that writing begins not with plot or conflict, both of which are vital to a good story, but with characters, with knowing them inside out. I tend to agree with her; those authors I respect and enjoy most are those whose characters are most complex, interesting, and well presented.

I am not struck by the emotion or lack of emotion the characters are showing, because I went through this exact scenario with a friend at work.  His daughter was missing for about a week before she was found and during the time she was missing all focus was directed on finding her, getting the police to be more involved, working with the media for publicity and, hopefully, tips the police can follow.   When someone is over 18, and there is no evidence of foul play, the searching falls to the family and friends. 
 
For me, this book is very hard to read, because it is so true to life. 
 
Anyway, I think Kim is like most 18 year olds on their way to college.  One last summer before you have to act like an adult.  She worked and never missed a day, but she and her friends were experimenting with sex, drugs, and alcohol.   Same things that were happening when I was 18, 37 years ago. 
 
I liked the lunch with Lindsey at the DQ and I think Kim felt guilty, not only for leaving her to go to college, but because she was short with her when they first started out driving that day.
 
 
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bookloverjb85
Posts: 168
Registered: ‎10-12-2007
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Re: Early Chapters

I would have to be another person who agrees that this family is not dysfunctional, just "normal". There are two parents who obviously work hard for what they have and two daughters who are in their teens and don't necessarily want to be around each other. I can understand Kim being annoyed by having to take her sister driving instead of going to hang out with her friends. These are "typical" problems that a family would have and teenagers do lie to their parents about what is going on in their lives, wanting it to be private.

So far I believe that O'Nan has given us a good perspective on how everyone feels about Kim missing and I think that we will hopefully see how it all comes together in the end.
--Jen--

"A house without books is like a room without windows."--Horace Mann
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bookloverjb85
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Re: Early Chapters



detailmuse wrote:
... I was so amazed by how quickly they'd mobilized that I assumed I'd missed a transition that had moved the story ahead several days. Nope, it was still the evening of the first day!


I felt the same way. I found myself wondering what day it was and then they were talking about how it had only been one day since Kim disappeared. I thought I had missed part of the story there too, as if some pages had been left out or something.
--Jen--

"A house without books is like a room without windows."--Horace Mann
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SandyS
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Registered: ‎12-28-2006
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Re: Early Chapters

MSaff, I agree with you.  I just want to pick up the phone and give the searchers tips.  I also want to find the time to be on a search party.  So far this book is "unputdownable".  I found it hard to stop reading to catch up on the posts.
A great human interest story with good character development.
 
SandyS

MSaff wrote:
Mr. O'Nan captured my attention at the beginning of this story. It feels real and it feels honest. As I think I have a clue, I want to pass it on to the characters in the book. That is the point, isn't it? Get the reader involved.


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Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
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Re: Early Chapters -- insights from "having been there"

Lavender -- thank you for your post and insights. I wondered how this book would seem to those who "have been there."

I, too, am among the readers who especially liked the vignette about the two sisters, the driving lesson, and the DQ. In his letter, O'Nan said he tried to get inside the heads of his characters to their feelings. I wonder if it will be Lindsey that he will be most successful in penetrating or portraying for us.


lavender wrote:
I think the early chapters set the scene very well. Having gone through a similar situation (in which a friend's older sister was abducted in our neighborhood), there's a sense of suspicion and unease surrounding many people, and it often lasts years after the crime is solved.

I had no clue what had happened to Kim but sensed it had something to do with her friends. She struck me as an average, everyday teenager. The scene where she's helping her sister drive is especially poignant to me.

I've really enjoyed this book, although I've found it hard to read at times because it brings back memories of that horrible time. But that makes it all the more powerful at the same time.
Lisa


"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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JustJanet
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Registered: ‎04-17-2008
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Re: Early Chapters

I thought the book was well written but I identify with the posters who said that the characterizations were not strong enough.  I think that in general, male authors are strong on plot and weak on character development.  Since most fiction readers are women, we are disappointed when we can't get inside the thoughts and emotions of the characters.  But overall, it was a good treatment of a very difficult topic.
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Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
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Re: Early Chapters

[ Edited ]
vivico1 wrote:....To break down doesn't mean you give up hope, or lose control of the situation. Actually they haven't much control of this situation anyway, she is gone and it will play out how it plays out. But the shock and fear brought on by such a thing and thoughts of what might be happening to her is enough to break down the strongest parent to tears and all kinds of extreme emotions, even as they try to do things. There are a lot of characters here that are very close to Kim and none of them have the emotions about this that just really pulls you in by the gut. I don't think its about the different ways different people handle things either. I think its the writing, the author hasn't put it there....

Vivian -- I really agree with you here. I don't know what O'Nan's solution might have been, consistent with his style of writing. However, I started reading Anne Enright's The Gathering the other night and was startled to find her eliciting the from me the visceral emotions of grief (even before I know what is really going on) that I had expected from Songs for the Missing, especially given O'Nan's statement of his objectives.

Although I enjoy O'Nan's detailed and realistic descriptions, at times I wonder at the criteria by which he has selected them for inclusion, or perhaps more accurately, allowed them to remain. That is, how much does O'Nan care that his stage settings serve and enhance his story, with all that is extraneous minimized? Somehow, I feel, given his strength at those descriptions, that a more careful honing of them may have sharpened the emotional impact. Certainly at least some of those descriptions do touch us and heighten the suspense, e.g., the abandoned car on the Interstate with the scrunchy that very first morning. (But why does the swimsuit of the early pages become a bikini only later?)

Oldesq wrote: IMHO Fran's response seems very genuine. I don't think Fran can allow grief because that would be admitting there was something to grieve about-right? And, after all, we know Fran is thinking that this is just some nightmare she is going to wake up from or that whole thing will have some very simple explanation--if she can just cross all the t's and dot the i's. There is too much denial of what might have happened to have grief.

A perspective I hadn't considered, Oldesq. Thanks. Still, as a third person narrator, I wanted O'Nan to touch the feelings under the denial for us.

Message Edited by Peppermill on 06-04-2008 11:44 PM
"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Amber_R
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Registered: ‎04-14-2008
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Re: Early Chapters

 






But why write a book about how people in an emotionally charged, really scary and sad situation act daily if you don't include what should be their highly charged emotions? Maybe this is the best way he could write it and as close as he could get inside them himself. I dunno. But keeping the story and us at a distance, is like telling us part of a story that altho intriguing, makes it really, just a story.

And hey! Karen! I own that "the dingo ate me baby!" movie! hehe, and what was important in that movie was their emotional reactions. It had a lot to do with why she was convicted and it was a true story. The thing about these kinds of stories, in real life, about the people around the victims, is how they react, how they feel, their emotions, are they real, are they faked. How many times have people become the major suspect in real life because of how little they reacted? If that's really the case, I would suspect everyone in this book!

But not every family would act with such emotion in these situations, which is what I like about O'Nan. He's taking the road less traveled point of view with this story. I used to volunteer as a victim advocate and I'd have to go talk to people who had horrible things happen to them, or the people around them, and the emotions were across the board. I only had one family that was the overwrought with emotion kind that some readers of this book are looking for. More families were much more like this one. In a state of shock and what do we do now kind of attitude. Just looking for answers and to be told what to do, or expect, next.  This seemed much more real to me. I think if he had written it with more emotion, as has been stated before, I wouldn't find it as believable. It might come off more fake to me - like he was trying to pull at my heartstrings. This was written in a way that I felt I could definitely see happening.  

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lamorgan
Posts: 62
Registered: ‎01-19-2007
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Re: Early Chapters

So far, I've only read the first 30 pages, but I'm really enjoying this book ... more so than any of the others I've read for the First Look club. The author is a very good writer.
I was taken aback by Fran's reaction to some of the questions posed by the police. She seemed to brush off the fact that she knew Kim drank, possibly had sex and maybe even smoked pot. I thought that an odd reaction for a mother.
I'm also wondering why the author chose to focus on the mother's answers to the questions and not the father's.
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Peppermill
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Re: Early Chapters

Linda and Kanellio -- personally, I wanted to send O'Nan to remedial English occasionally, to learn how to clearly indicate the antecedents of his pronouns. More than once, I had to re-read a paragraph a couple of times to be certain to whom he was referring. (I was also a number of pages into the novel before I was absolutely certain Nina was a gal -- when she shook her wet hair at the swimming hole.) It also troubled me when the last sentence was about an entirely different person than the paragraph had been, even when the transition was logical.



Linda10 wrote:
Hi Kanellio65!
Thank you for your comments. I do appreciate them. With all these posts of praise by, seemingly, everyone else, it's nice to know that I'm not alone. I was beginning to think I was going to have to post something like, "Is there something wrong with me? Am I missing something?"

Like you, there were times when I couldn't figure out who was speaking, especially at the start of a new chapter. I have now read through page 162 and, as I said, I will finish the book. I'm curious about Kim; I'm also curious if it will be one of those books with an ending that made you glad you stuck with it. Remember, "The Sister" had its big surprise closer to the end.


"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
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Re: Early Chapters

"By a long and steady effort" really struck me, because it seemed so poignant. I thought it was one spot where O'Nan got the feelings spot on and consistent with his style. The contrast with the suddenness of what happened is certainly recognizable to those of us who lived close to the aftermath of 911, the day the assumption of tomorrow was dashed.

I appreciate your comments about the contrast between what Kim hoped and what was about to happen. I missed those allusions. Another tidbit of the writing O'Nan seems capable of producing.



detailmuse wrote:
I guessed that she wanted to be an individual of her own creation, not the daughter/sister she's defined as in her small town.
The phrase, "by a long and steady effort," sticks out to me -- it's not necessary to the main thought of the sentence, so its inclusion feels intentional. Wouldn't most girls her age think that they could create their new identity instantly -- on Day 1 of college?

KxBurns wrote:


detailmuse wrote:
Two lines come to mind. One is from the end of the very first paragraph: "In the fall they were gone, off to college, where [Kim] hoped, by a long and steady effort, she might become someone else, a private, independent person, someone not from Kingsville at all." At this point in my reading, it seems that Kim will be forever public and forever attached to Kingsville.


I'm curious what you make of the choice of words here. "Independent" makes sense and seems pretty typical for someone her age. What about wanting to be "private" or to dissociate herself from Kingsville completely? What do these statements indicate about Kim or her life?




"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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Peppermill
Posts: 6,768
Registered: ‎04-04-2007
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Re: Early Chapters

Janet -- a sidebar from SFTM, but do read Tolstoy's Anna Karenina sometime and see if you retain the same generalization on male authors.



JustJanet wrote:
I thought the book was well written but I identify with the posters who said that the characterizations were not strong enough. I think that in general, male authors are strong on plot and weak on character development. Since most fiction readers are women, we are disappointed when we can't get inside the thoughts and emotions of the characters. But overall, it was a good treatment of a very difficult topic.


"Seize the moments of happiness, love and be loved! That is the only reality in the world, all else is folly. It is the one thing we are interested in here." -- Leo Tolstoy
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krb2g
Posts: 289
Registered: ‎02-05-2008
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Re: Narrator

Detailmuse, I agree that the point-of-view is omniscient, tending to focus on a variety of characters. Part of the delicious irony of this choice of perspective is, after the first chapter, we as readers follow many parts of the search for Kim from multiple perspectives (for example, Fran putting together fliers while Ed coordinates the volunteer searches). Still, the text withholds the crucial piece of information from us--what happened to Kim. Kim is an absent center.


detailmuse wrote:
I'm interested in O'Nan's choice of narrator/point of view in this novel. I'm used to first-person or third-person or alternating narrators, but this seems to be an omniscient narrator -- I don't think I've read a novel in omniscient point of view in a very long time. At times the narration is distanced and documentary, other times we're in the heads of characters -- and it changes from character to character within a chapter, even within a paragraph.


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pjmanley41
Posts: 13
Registered: ‎04-11-2008
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Re: Early Chapters

What scenes, moments, or exchanges struck you as meaningful? The Dairy Queen scene seems very believable. It reminded me of my two daughters and how the oldest one really did miss the youngest when she got ready to go to college.

How would you characterize Kim's home life and her social life? Kim seemed to have a regular home life. A daughter trying to establish herself as separate from her mother. The drug use is common enough in that age group and tame compared to what some get into. Her friends were normal friends. Close enough in some areas but all with secrets of their own.

Does our impression of Kim from the first chapter change as we begin to see her through the eyes of friends and family? How does their view of Kim change over the course of these early chapters? I think the boyfriend missed the idea of Kim more than Kim and the guilt over losing someone suddenly that you still had unresolved issues with.
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pigwidgeon
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Registered: ‎01-28-2007
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Re: Narrator

Is anyone else put off by the recurring references to modern day "things". I understand that Mr. O'Nan is surely trying to present a realistic story in the present time, but all of the mentions of ipods, IMing, and other popular current time items or actions (like the band Cake, for example) feel so strange to me. They seem to stick out in the writing like flags - This is current time, you know! - Hey you, modern day here! I wonder if this book will feel dated in 10 or 20 years. Will people still know who Cake is? I wonder if anyone who wasn't a teen, or (ahem) twentysomething, in the '90s does (that was sort of for effect, I'm sure many non-generation X or Y-ers will know them, though in my opinion, they were a one hit wonder). As I said, I think I understand the reasoning for it, but they just seem out of place to me. What about any of you? Too much?
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READERJANE
Posts: 63
Registered: ‎01-21-2008
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Re: Early Chapters

I agree with you Stephanie, the scenes of the  two of them together added dimension to their relationship that in not evident anyplace else in the book. 
 
Jane
New Jersey
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nfam
Posts: 231
Registered: ‎01-08-2007
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Re: Early Chapters

I thought the early chapters were very well done. They presented a picture first of Kim's normal routine then of how people responded to her disappearance. It was almost like starting to read a mystery. The characters were well drawn and the scene setting was excellent. You could feel what it was like to be a young girl in the summer in a place like Kingsley.
 
The one problem I have with the opening is that it is so much like other missing children stories. Life is normal until suddenly something happens. With a good kid like Kim, family and friends find it had to believe what happened. I guess there is a large market for such stories, but I don't find this book particularly original. That said, it's an enjoyable read.
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nfam
Posts: 231
Registered: ‎01-08-2007
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Re: Early Chapters

I have to agree with this observation. Teenagers get into things their parents wish they wouldn't and think they never could. One of my boys talking about his teenage years said, "It's better you don't know, Mom." I didn't change my impression of Kim. I thought she was basically an average teenager with parents who were trying hard to do a good job with their kids.
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sile
Posts: 11
Registered: ‎04-10-2008
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Re: Early Chapters



jeanblay wrote:
I know after 100's of replies, it is hard to say something that hasn't been said but...   I find myself wanting to get through the book to find out where Kim is and what the secret is. It definitely keeps ones interest in that respect.  I also feel the same as others about the coolness of the family's reactions.  The only reaction to this situation that seems normal is her father's. He wants to be out there, anywhere, looking for her.  I know I wouldn't be able to hand out fliers and research web sites if one of my daughter's were missing.  I would be an emotional wreck.  Not that it would be a productive reaction, but it seems more of a reaction that a mother would have. Who knows, as stated I have not been through something like this.  Will it be a favorite book that I read? Definitely not. I guess I can categorize it as one that kept my interest and not a struggle to get through.


I agree with you that I am most motivated to continue reading to find out about the secret and what happened to Kim, but not out of any real connection to the characters.  I do think Lindsay's reaction is typical though.  I think of myself at that age and my own teen son, who when things get overwhelming retreats to his room and shuts down.  I don't think she quite knows how to handle all the emotions she must be feeling and the emotions of the people around her. 
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sile
Posts: 11
Registered: ‎04-10-2008
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Re: Early Chapters

I totally agree with you Jajochu3, I don't want to read spoilers which is why I am following the early chapters thread. 

Jajochku3 wrote:
I know this is supposed to be a book discussion, but I'm having a hard time reading other people's comments. 
 
For starters,  I don't want any spoilers. 
 

Message Edited by Jajochku3 on 06-04-2008 07:40 PM


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