06-04-2008 09:33 PM
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.
06-04-2008 09:54 PM
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.
"A house without books is like a room without windows."--Horace Mann
06-04-2008 10:08 PM
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.
"A house without books is like a room without windows."--Horace Mann
06-04-2008 10:45 PM
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.
06-04-2008 10:52 PM
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
06-04-2008 11:20 PM
06-04-2008 11:24 PM - edited 06-04-2008 11:44 PM
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
06-04-2008 11:27 PM
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.
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!
06-05-2008 12:02 AM
06-05-2008 12:20 AM
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.
06-05-2008 12:39 AM
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?
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?
06-05-2008 01:01 AM
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.
06-05-2008 07:29 AM
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.
06-05-2008 09:31 AM
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.
06-05-2008 09:37 AM
06-05-2008 09:52 AM
06-05-2008 10:32 AM
06-05-2008 10:35 AM
06-05-2008 10:39 AM
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.
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.
06-05-2008 10:57 AM
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