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KxBurns
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Narrative Structure

How does the shifting point-of-view from one character to another serve the story O'Nan is trying to tell? Did you find this technique effective or unsettling or both? What about his portrayal of the passage of time -- what might be the intended effect of the leaps in time that occur throughout the story?
 
What other narrative devices caught your eye?
Melissa_W
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Re: Narrative Structure

I really appreciated how each chapter took on the point-of-view of a different character.  I think it really allowed the reader to get inside each character's head and understand the motivations rather than provide either a truly omniscent narrator (which gets old after a while) or have a shifting first person narrative (which would have been impossible to follow - think Faulkner in Absolom, Absolom).  I think the leaps in time from chapter to chapter helped emphasize the point that time does not stop; it keeps going forward, even in the event of a tragedy, and there is no way to stop the world, find Kim, and then start everything back up again.  I think also the idea that the leaps weren't random also helped emphasize this point - the first time the police call with report of a body, the day the car is found, Lindsay starting school again in the fall, Thanksgiving break for Nina and JP, etc.  We dropped back in on a character when something significant happened to change routine.
 
Just a thought - did anyone make a thread for Lindsay?  Or did I miss it? 

KxBurns wrote:
How does the shifting point-of-view from one character to another serve the story O'Nan is trying to tell? Did you find this technique effective or unsettling or both? What about his portrayal of the passage of time -- what might be the intended effect of the leaps in time that occur throughout the story?
 
What other narrative devices caught your eye?



Melissa W.
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lenoreva
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Re: Narrative Structure

The leaps in time are interesting in that we see more action closer to the incident when it has the most impact.  As time goes on, people begin the healing process, other concerns get in the way, and the characters spend less time on thinking about Kim.  It's just the way things are.
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Jeanie0522
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Re: Narrative Structure

The leaps in time and the shift in characters telling of the story are one of the things I like the most about this book.  The leaps in time as well as time management in general is one of Stewart O'Nan's trademarks in my opinion.  All of his books that I have read have impressed me that way.  The shift in giving different character's a chance to give their perspective helps to show how each person views the tragedy differently and what things they are focusing on. 
 
The family members in particular show you how differently each person is feeling.  I think Lindsay is a perfect example.  It's easy to see from her viewpoint how the community and friends/family view Fran and Ed as the people hurting most because Kim is their child.  Lindsay's hurt is completely different, but just as painful.  I think siblings are often an after thought during times when a child is missing. 
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bentley
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Re: Narrative Structure



Jeanie0522 wrote:
The leaps in time and the shift in characters telling of the story are one of the things I like the most about this book.  The leaps in time as well as time management in general is one of Stewart O'Nan's trademarks in my opinion.  All of his books that I have read have impressed me that way.  The shift in giving different character's a chance to give their perspective helps to show how each person views the tragedy differently and what things they are focusing on. 
 
The family members in particular show you how differently each person is feeling.  I think Lindsay is a perfect example.  It's easy to see from her viewpoint how the community and friends/family view Fran and Ed as the people hurting most because Kim is their child.  Lindsay's hurt is completely different, but just as painful.  I think siblings are often an after thought during times when a child is missing. 





I think it is a bit unsettling; because each shift leaves open ended questions and before the reader has time to settle in; O'Nan is off to the next chapter and the next perspective. I guess this is his trademark approach and folks will like it, feel comfortable with it or not I do think that this approach runs the risk or very flat characterizations.
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mwinasu
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Re: Narrative Structure

The structure was lovely.  Very well done.  At first I thought that he rushed the last part of the book because he was under a dead line, but after a little reflection it seemed that he was mirroring the way events are percieved in real time.  Nice Job.
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kboston
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Re: Narrative Structure

I agree with bentley. I found myself skipping ahead to find out more from the character I had finished reading only to go back and read the other characters story's/ point of views or going back to earlier chapters to see if I missed something.  Leaping can work in a story, I just don't think it did this book justice.
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vivico1
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Re: Narrative Structure


bentley wrote:


Jeanie0522 wrote:
The leaps in time and the shift in characters telling of the story are one of the things I like the most about this book. The leaps in time as well as time management in general is one of Stewart O'Nan's trademarks in my opinion. All of his books that I have read have impressed me that way. The shift in giving different character's a chance to give their perspective helps to show how each person views the tragedy differently and what things they are focusing on.
The family members in particular show you how differently each person is feeling. I think Lindsay is a perfect example. It's easy to see from her viewpoint how the community and friends/family view Fran and Ed as the people hurting most because Kim is their child. Lindsay's hurt is completely different, but just as painful. I think siblings are often an after thought during times when a child is missing.





I think it is a bit unsettling; because each shift leaves open ended questions and before the reader has time to settle in; O'Nan is off to the next chapter and the next perspective. I guess this is his trademark approach and folks will like it, feel comfortable with it or not I do think that this approach runs the risk or very flat characterizations.


I agree with some of that Bentley. I am ok tho with each chapter being a different person, as long as I know who we just jumped to and it doesnt take pages to figure it out, or I don't wind up going back a few pages, as someone said, to see what just happened and who is talking now. I really didn't have this problem here, a couple of times, but in general I am fine with it and some writers do better than others with it. I do agree with the flat characterizations tho, and I have said that, I am sure too much now, so I will leave that to others now.
Vivian
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the_mad_chatter
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Re: Narrative Structure

I would have liked more Fran and JP chapters.  I felt myself looking forward to those more than others.
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dhaupt
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Re: Narrative Structure

I liked that each character told his or her story in different chapters I was more easily able to follow all of the goings on that way and it gave me a better insight into each person.

I did have a little trouble with his time leaps but after a few of them I became accustomed.
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efoltz
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Re: Narrative Structure

I also like how each character told their story in different chapters. I enjoyed the insight into the characters' minds. I felt this strategy is what help me enjoy certain characters and want to read more just to find out what the next perspective from Lindsay or JP would be. I found it enjoyable to find a detail out from another character's perspective which might influence my view of a character. I thought the narrative style was fun to constantly have the reader's view of the characters' change.
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paula_02912
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Re: Narrative Structure

Karen wrote: "
How does the shifting point-of-view from one character to another serve the story O'Nan is trying to tell? Did you find this technique effective or unsettling or both? What about his portrayal of the passage of time -- what might be the intended effect of the leaps in time that occur throughout the story?
 
What other narrative devices caught your eye?"
 
Karen, I really enjoyed the shifting point of view because it made the story a little more believable to me...not having the story coming from just one POV helped me to get some insightful info about all the people who were affected by Kim's disappearance, which, imo, wouldn't have happened if we were told from one character's perspective...I feel that this is how he was able to create the most effective emotion for each character...for example, when I read about Lindsay and the way she withdrew as well as "hear" her thoughts, I really felt the anger and pain she was feeling, especially since she felt that she could not voice her opinions or how she felt...I liked the portrayal of time...two years went by, and it was realistic in the sense that when Kim disappearance was known, every effort was made on the part of her parents and the community to find her for at least the first 6 months...it seemed like life stopped for many people, especially the immediate family...once she wasn't discovered, the search parties declined as well, indicating that some people felt that she wasn't going to be found, so they returned to their "normal" lives, even though a few stuck around... after the first year, it was apparent that life had to go on, even though there was hope for Kim's return...the family, in some senses, tried to go back to doing their everyday activities, and I feel that they achieved some sense of normalcy...Lindsay was out of her room, hanging out with her dad and watching television...they ate as a family, etc...
 
I think that other narrative devices O'Nan uses are repetition relating to the media circus when Kim was first missing, and the one when she was "found"; flashbacks...where both Ed and Fran often remembered times when the girls were younger and what they did as a family; shifting location (space) within the story, moving the search from Kingsville to Sandusky...this technique enables the readers to approach the search from a different perspective spatially, forcing us to focus on the pov of primarily her father, Ed...; mentioning the kiss between Nina and JP, but not really giving the circumstances surrounding how it happened...the use of titles for each chapter instead of numbers as a means of informing the reading about what was going to happen in this story...foreshadowing: this technique was apparent in the line.."She did not hate the town, as, years later, her sister would tell one lover" (p. 1)
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Tarri
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Re: Narrative Structure

The changing character and point-of-view style of writing here was very effective.  I never lost the flow, which can sometimes happen when the voice changes in a book. 
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Bonnie824
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Re: Narrative Structure

I think the changing POV kept this story from being as emotionally draining as it could have been- I'm not sure if that is a good thing. We got to see the tragedy in wide screen basically, which added to the informational part of it, but we didn't get really invested and involved with any one person and what they were going through.
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thewanderingjew
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Re: Narrative Structure

although the leaps in the passage of time served to move the story forward and showed the developments that were taking place in the lives of the various characters, i felt, at times, that the leaps were too broad or that the prior chapter was too undeveloped leaving many unanswered questions. some were so open ended that  i turned back the pages thinking i had missed a page or two by accident or thinking that the advanced copy was incomplete with a chapter missing and needed to be corrected.
twj

KxBurns wrote:
... What about his portrayal of the passage of time -- what might be the intended effect of the leaps in time that occur throughout the story?
 
What other narrative devices caught your eye?



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vivico1
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Re: Narrative Structure


Bonnie824 wrote:
I think the changing POV kept this story from being as emotionally draining as it could have been- I'm not sure if that is a good thing. We got to see the tragedy in wide screen basically, which added to the informational part of it, but we didn't get really invested and involved with any one person and what they were going through.



You know, I kind of think I would have liked to have had a first person narrative from one of them, most likely Lindsay. I think seeing this through her eyes would have been a much more moving story than it is, since she seemed to be the one almost as invisible in the family as Kim is now. Then the others could have been third person as it is now. I wanted to be really invested in someone, to care about this story for more than the tale of it as any of these are, but I just couldn't. Yeah, I think Lindsay, the lost child in the family, telling the story about her missing sister in the family with all the things that made her feel and how she perceived others, towards her now and towards Kim, would have been really quite interesting indeed.
Vivian
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lenoreva
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Re: Narrative Structure

I agree that if there was anyone I would want to hear from in first person, it would be Lindsey.
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pheath
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Re: Narrative Structure



KxBurns wrote:


How does the shifting point-of-view from one character to another serve the story O'Nan is trying to tell? Did you find this technique effective or unsettling or both?






I thought that it worked OK. However I've read other novels where the time structure is not as linear where it is more effective. Say chapter 6 is told from Person A's point of view. Then chapter 7 is told from Person B's point of view with an overlap of timespan where they describe the same activity from a different point of view. Each chapter also has it's unique aspects as well, but I think this gives added depth to a story, and I think it could have really worked in the first half of Songs for the Missing.
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DSaff
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Re: Narrative Structure

As others have mentioned, I enjoyed the changing point of view. It seemed that I was reading things happening to different people in real time. I felt like I was watching the events unfold everywhere at the same time. Truly enjoyable.
DonnaS =) " Reading is a means of thinking with another person's mind; it forces you to stretch your own." Charles Scribner
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Everyman
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Re: Narrative Structure

I am probably closer to this view than the view of liking the frequent shifts. I think the shotgun approach is quite intentional, probably to give a sense of movement in what is otherwise a quite static situation. Once Kim goes missing, there's a lot of activity but there's really little plot development, so the author needs some technique to keep us interested and reading on. Sticking with any one character as the primary focus would run out of gas fairly quickly, since he really doesn't have the depth of analysis in the book to justify centering around a single character.

So I see why he has adopted this approach. But I agree with you that it's a technique that seems a bit off putting at times.

bentley wrote:
I think [the shift in point of view of characters] is a bit unsettling; because each shift leaves open ended questions and before the reader has time to settle in; O'Nan is off to the next chapter and the next perspective. I guess this is his trademark approach and folks will like it, feel comfortable with it or not I do think that this approach runs the risk or very flat characterizations.


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