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ELee
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Registered: ‎10-26-2006
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Comments for Stewart O'Nan



Stewart_ONan wrote:

Thanks for reading the book, and for your questions.  For me, it's neat seeing all the different reactions people have to the characters and to the way the book is put together--especially so when many of them have never read anything I've written, or come to the book from other genres (mystery, popular fiction, true crime).  Every time I log on and read people's remarks, I feel that I should thank them (and Viking and B&N and the moderators) for spending so much time on my book.  For an author there's no higher honor than a reader taking the time to read your book.  And then to take the time to comment on it as well?  That's incredibly generous of everyone, and I'm grateful, so yeah, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.  Getting my characters into the hands of good readers--that's an ideal situation. 

 
It's a two-way street.  As a reader, it is truly an honor to have you participate in our group.  You have been patient and thoughtful, adding a new dimension to our "reading" experience.  (And a big thank-you to your publisher and B&N for making it possible in the first place.)  As for taking the time to read a book, some of us can't help ourselves-we are reading junkies!
 

For me the books I write don't really end.  I can always go back and spend time with the characters, and inhabit the scenes--not just what I've written of them, but everything else going on around them that I didn't include on the page.  When you imagine something, you see a lot more than what the reader needs to see, but that world is solid and full and still there inside my head, so I can go back, say, to when they're driving back from Ed's mother's and come into town and see the fireworks going off over the lake, and I can stop the car and get out and sit with the people on their lawns or on the sidewalk (still hot from the day) and watch the rockets glide up and blossom again and again.  And while I'm there I'll see more--people smoking on their porches, and the glow of a TV inside, the lighthouse backlit by the colored reflections on the water.  That's the pleasure of having that imaginary world to go to--like having a book to read.

I love your description of "going back" and I believe that it is this capacity to create and inhabit an imaginary world combined with talent that makes for good writing.  It is very satisfying as a reader to know that my revisiting your "story" to glean more from it or simply look around, has its counterpart for the author, who returns to the places that inspired his work to begin with.
 
         
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Tasses
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

Mr. O'Nan,

I'd like to add my two cents in thanking you for offering us this opportunity to read your lovely novel. I own three of your books (I'm a book hoarder), but have to honestly admit to having not read them. This book has certainly moved them up the TBR pile!

The thing that I liked best about your writing was your economy of words. Lately, I've read so many novels where I longed for an editor's pen. It seems you subscribe to the Hemingway school of thought (and what good company!). It's interesting that I don't really like Hemingway's ideas, nor would I have found your topic to be one I'd seek out, but good writing will always woo me.

I haven't been able to participate in the discussion threads this time, but wanted to say thanks and offer you a look at my review which is posted on both my personal blog (www.randomwonder.com) and my book blog (www.manyaquaintandcuriousvolume.blogspot.com).

Regards,
Tasses
See all my reviews at: Reading Rumpus and Many A Quaint & Curious Volume
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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Comments for Stewart O'Nan



ELee wrote:


Stewart_ONan wrote:

Thanks for reading the book, and for your questions.  For me, it's neat seeing all the different reactions people have to the characters and to the way the book is put together--especially so when many of them have never read anything I've written, or come to the book from other genres (mystery, popular fiction, true crime).  Every time I log on and read people's remarks, I feel that I should thank them (and Viking and B&N and the moderators) for spending so much time on my book.  For an author there's no higher honor than a reader taking the time to read your book.  And then to take the time to comment on it as well?  That's incredibly generous of everyone, and I'm grateful, so yeah, I'd do it again in a heartbeat.  Getting my characters into the hands of good readers--that's an ideal situation. 

 
It's a two-way street.  As a reader, it is truly an honor to have you participate in our group.  You have been patient and thoughtful, adding a new dimension to our "reading" experience.  (And a big thank-you to your publisher and B&N for making it possible in the first place.)  As for taking the time to read a book, some of us can't help ourselves-we are reading junkies!
 

For me the books I write don't really end.  I can always go back and spend time with the characters, and inhabit the scenes--not just what I've written of them, but everything else going on around them that I didn't include on the page.  When you imagine something, you see a lot more than what the reader needs to see, but that world is solid and full and still there inside my head, so I can go back, say, to when they're driving back from Ed's mother's and come into town and see the fireworks going off over the lake, and I can stop the car and get out and sit with the people on their lawns or on the sidewalk (still hot from the day) and watch the rockets glide up and blossom again and again.  And while I'm there I'll see more--people smoking on their porches, and the glow of a TV inside, the lighthouse backlit by the colored reflections on the water.  That's the pleasure of having that imaginary world to go to--like having a book to read.

I love your description of "going back" and I believe that it is this capacity to create and inhabit an imaginary world combined with talent that makes for good writing.  It is very satisfying as a reader to know that my revisiting your "story" to glean more from it or simply look around, has its counterpart for the author, who returns to the places that inspired his work to begin with.
 
         


Oh, I'm a junkie too.  Gotta have something to read (and something to write).  Right now I'm reading William Maxwell's complete works in the new Library of America two-volume edition for an event I'm attending in July and a piece I'm doing on him for the Wall Street Journal.  A great excuse to indulge in 1800 pages of great prose.
 
And I do hope readers can go back to my books and find more there.  Those are the kinds of books I love best.
 
Thanks again.


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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Tasses wrote:
Mr. O'Nan,

I'd like to add my two cents in thanking you for offering us this opportunity to read your lovely novel. I own three of your books (I'm a book hoarder), but have to honestly admit to having not read them. This book has certainly moved them up the TBR pile!

The thing that I liked best about your writing was your economy of words. Lately, I've read so many novels where I longed for an editor's pen. It seems you subscribe to the Hemingway school of thought (and what good company!). It's interesting that I don't really like Hemingway's ideas, nor would I have found your topic to be one I'd seek out, but good writing will always woo me.

I haven't been able to participate in the discussion threads this time, but wanted to say thanks and offer you a look at my review which is posted on both my personal blog (www.randomwonder.com) and my book blog (www.manyaquaintandcuriousvolume.blogspot.com).

Regards,
Tasses

Thanks so much for reading the book, for your kind words and your generous review.  From the other books on your site, I'd recommend, of my stuff, The Night Country, which has a real lyrical Bradbury feel (it's dedicated to him), A Prayer for the Dying (also lyrical and somewhat Gothic) and The Speed Queen (a satirical/psychotic road movie about a spree killer who sells her life story to Stephen King).  Songs is definitely in my super-realistic, Hemingway-iceberg mode, but I've got a weird, fantastical side too.  Plus those other three are short!  I do think being economical adds to the power of whatever you're trying to do.  And yet, one of my very favorite books is The Stand.  Also the whole Dark Tower series.  Heck, War and Peace too.  Anyway, thanks, and happy reading.


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bookhunter
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Stewart_ONan wrote: 
 
...For me, it's neat seeing all the different reactions people have to the characters and to the way the book is put together--especially so when many of them have never read anything I've written, or come to the book from other genres (mystery, popular fiction, true crime).  ...  Getting my characters into the hands of good readers--that's an ideal situation
 
...
 
For me the books I write don't really end.  I can always go back and spend time with the characters, and inhabit the scenes--not just what I've written of them, but everything else going on around them that I didn't include on the page.  When you imagine something, you see a lot more than what the reader needs to see, but that world is solid and full and still there inside my head, so I can go back, say, to when they're driving back from Ed's mother's and come into town and see the fireworks going off over the lake, and I can stop the car and get out and sit with the people on their lawns or on the sidewalk (still hot from the day) and watch the rockets glide up and blossom again and again.  And while I'm there I'll see more--people smoking on their porches, and the glow of a TV inside, the lighthouse backlit by the colored reflections on the water.  That's the pleasure of having that imaginary world to go to--like having a book to read.
 
(please pardon the snipping by bookhunter)

Mr. O'Nan,
 
I love how you continuously refer to the "characters" in the book and not so much the "story" of the book.  This book is definitely more about the people in it than the events themselves.  I have not read any of your other books, so I don't know if this is typical of your writing.  Do you find that you focus more on the characters than the events?  Also, as in your response above, the settings seem to be very important to you.
 
Some books are enjoyable because of the rip-roaring story they tell, and others are great because of the compelling characters.  What is the difference in how a writer approaches the task when the focus is more on one or the other?
 
I am very much enjoying your responses to everyone's questions and again, appreciate your spending your time with us.
 
Ann, bookhunter
PS  We haven't talked much about Ed's mother, but I want to say that I loved her inclusion in the story--makes for a "complete" family that exists beyond just the town.
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mwinasu
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

As I read through these posts I realized that the thing I liked most about this book seems to be driving others crazy.  How odd.  Your style feels very much like Kenzaburo Oe to me.  Your characters act Japanese and  the reader has to figure out how reality has been altered.  At first that kind of bugged me.  It felt like those  old movies where the Romans  all spoke English.  Inauthentic, I guess is the word.  That's what I meant when I said I was a snob.  You are not Japanese.  I wonder if I would have liked this book better if it had an Asian name attached to it.  Maybe.  You still need to slow down I think. It's  like trying to sell sushi at McDonald's, most Americans won't get it.  Good luck anyway.
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BookSavage
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Stewart_ONan wrote:


bentley wrote:




This was a stunning explanation concerning JP and the above was very helpful.

Thank you, Bentley


Hope it wasn't too stunning.





You are making me smile again..I wish you would just get winded enough from another post to breakdown and explain your thinking about Kim. Still in their pitching.

Love the details about JP. I understand your intent so much better and JP too.

:smileyhappy:

Bentley

See, now I'm the one smiling.  My thinking about Kim is that she's the missing center of their lives, just as she's the missing center of the book around which everything revolves, eternally.  As long as there are questions as to what exactly happened to her, the people closest to her will always want to (need to) know those answers.  And THAT is what the book is about--the need and the inability to know, and how these people (how we) live with that.  Long after the book ends, Ed and Fran and Lindsay and Nina and Elise and J.P. and Wooze will still be living with that.
 
\


Its just too bad that the book did not do a good job portraying this and it had to be related in the discussion that the common reader will not get.
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dghobbs
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Stewart_ONan wrote:


Tarri wrote:
Thank you for sharing Songs for the Missing with the First Look bookclub, it was an incredibly insightful looking into the aftermath of a family with a missing child. I don't know if you discussed the feelings a family goes through as hope wanes with a family who has gone through it, but your words brought the Larsen's emotions into sharp focus for me. At times, I had to set my book aside and do something other than read.
Why did you decide to have the murderer commit suicide as opposed to having the family go through a trial?
I look forward to reading more of your books.


Thank you for reading the book. The reason I had the murderer commit suicide in prison before divulging where Kim was was because that actually happened in the case I based the back half of the novel on, and that extra uncertainty was even more excruciating for the family (and for me, reading about it). The terror of the book is the not-knowing, and the motivation for the parents is always them trying to find out what happened and where she is, and this choice added to that drama.





Stewart,

As a parent who also has daughters in transition from home to the outer world (my daughters are 23, 19, and 15), I can only agree that parents will persist until they know what happened. I kept imagining what I would do in if one of my daughters disappeared and frankly my eyes teared up and I thought "I would do anything". Just as the parents finding out the murderer's suicide didn't stop them, I know parents would persist.

thank you for writing such a fascinating, thought-provoking, and Wonderfully well written Novel - :smileyhappy:Doug
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BookSavage
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Stewart_ONan wrote:


the_mad_chatter wrote:
That's exactly how I felt about Ed and I got so busted by some of the other posters! 
 
Can I also say that your use of water symbolism was awesome or was it just coincidence that Ed's favorite hobby...his boat on the lake...was a non-changing, stagnant body of water while we associate Nina with the river? 
 
and sonan wrote back:
 
 
Not sure why they busted on you for it.  The evidence is right there on the page.  It may be that people try to read too fast?  I know from experience that that's one of the major pitfalls when you're reviewing a book.  Or maybe the size of the print caused people to skim bits?  But you're right.
 
Don't know if I'd go as far as calling the lake/river thing symbolism, but it's true that Ed's idea of a good time is being out there by himself with no cares in the world, in a timeless, static present, while Kim's dreams always involve motion and action, escape.


This just cracked me up.  You defend what I consider to be the worst part of your writing (the characters) and sound like you did not even realize that you had actually done something quite literary with wonderful water symbolism.  You are unlike any writer I have ever talked to.
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BookSavage
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

I must say that I agree with you Pepper.  I did not see Ed in anyway as the character that was not willing to change.  He gave up everything about himself to search for Kim and even resisted going to back to his old ways.  If anyone seemed like they did not want to change to me it was Fran.

Peppermill wrote:
Great points and excerpts to call to our attention, Stewart. However, I read them as signs of depression, rather than as of inability to change -- at least insofar as resistance to change was a personality trait of Ed's. I.e., I read any resistance to change as more a result of what had happened, rather than a characteristic of Ed that made it harder for him to adapt to what had happened. And that was laying personal experience on the story -- people who are normally quite able by personality to get up and keep moving can get stopped, at least for awhile and sometimes for some time, by life.

Thank you for your willingness to engage in these conversations. They deeply reinforce the depth with which you have "lived" with your characters.

Pepper


Stewart_ONan wrote:


Peppermill wrote:


Stewart_ONan wrote:


the_mad_chatter wrote:
Hi Mr. O'Nan,
This weekend I read a quote from Charles Darwin that basically said that it's not the strongest nor the most intelligent that survive but those who can adapt. It made me think of your story because we are rooting throughout the book for each character to survive the horror of Kim's disappearance and there are certainly few adaptable characters in your book.
We've had some great discussions about the book and I hope you'll take some time to read a few threads. I've enjoyed the heated debates and passions and would like to thank you for all the clues.
Bravo!


Thanks--and a great point. Their adaptations change and maybe even warp them, and then there's Ed, who basically can't change and just have to keep living even though most of his world is gone.





That's not how I read Ed. Mr. O'Nan, you have been dropping viewpoints about your characters throughout these posts that I wish you had made more suggestive in your original text. What you say here isn't inconsistent, it just tells me more than I was capable as a reader of reaching on my own.

Now, maybe that is a comment on my reading skills.....

Pepper

I think this line from p. 192 is pretty much to-the-point: 'In a larger sense, much of his daily life as he knew it no longer mattered, yet he clung to it.'
Also the way he tries to stick with the old routines of his life (like fishing or watching the Indians) but finds them empty and unhelpful.
His attitude is apparent throughout pp. 226-232, including lines like: 'He had to wake up and go to work. He had to eat and sleep and know what was coming up on the calendar, though he no longer looked forward to anything. Pretending to be interested took a constant effort. When he was by himself he went slack, and then he remembered he had to fix the light in the closet or refill the cars with wiper fluid or buy more ice melter.'
Likewise, the way he doesn't understand how Fran can go running around being positive and public, expending all this energy.





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BookSavage
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

I was not able to join this discussion for a while and have now come back to it and in some ways wish I hadn't.  I really liked the Ed that was in the book much better than the Ed that is being created in this discussion.

Stewart_ONan wrote:


Peppermill wrote:
Interesting. I know that I wasn't that hard on the Ed I encountered. I rather "liked" the guy for somehow sustaining some semblance of stability for his family when the world was unstable and some of that "stability" was inevitably the illusion he knew it to be. Maybe I've never known enough coaches!


Stewart_ONan wrote:
...Ed's actions after Kim's disappearance are a reflection of his personality. And his actions really don't change that much. His emotional response to the world may be depressive (he himself wonders if he's clinically depressed), but throughout, he tries to maintain the same kind of normal, private life, even when he knows he can't. But that's his ideal, so he keeps trying to go on that way, just as his ideal, professionally, is to have a strong housing market, even though that hasn't been true in Kingsville for years. His reaction, professionally, is to do nothing but what he's always done, and fret about it. He's a creature of habit (like most coaches) if not all-out inertia. [Emphasis added.]

Yes, you're exactly right--'sustaining some semblance of stability.'  Brilliantly put.  That's Ed right there, for better or worse.  I think it's a rather stoic way to go, noble but possibly misguided.  My take is that he does it as much for himself as for his family (and I think Fran would agree, as she's often frustrated with him), but, because of who he is, deep down, he may be incapable of doing anything else.  The experience shows him the limits of self-reliance, and as someone who's based his life on self-reliance (100% effort somehow rewarding you), he now understands that that may not be enough to save him or the people he loves.






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Everyman
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan

On the thread on Fran, bookhunter wrote:

Do you all think that by the end of the book Fran is a "better" person? Has this whole experience caused her to grow positively?

She has stopped drinking pretty much. She lost weight, looks better, becomes more focused on her family relationships. It seems like the search for Kim gave her a purpose and a role she found fulfilling.


To which I replied:

If you're right, isn't it sad that it took the loss of a daughter to make her a better person, to stop her drinking, to make here more focused on her remaining family?

Is any of this consistent with the way you intended to present Fran to your readers? Was it your intent that we think that this terrible experience had at least one silver lining in making Fran a "better" person than she was before?
_______________
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Peppermill
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan


Everyman wrote:
On the thread on Fran, bookhunter wrote:

Do you all think that by the end of the book Fran is a "better" person? Has this whole experience caused her to grow positively?

She has stopped drinking pretty much. She lost weight, looks better, becomes more focused on her family relationships. It seems like the search for Kim gave her a purpose and a role she found fulfilling.


To which I replied:

If you're right, isn't it sad that it took the loss of a daughter to make her a better person, to stop her drinking, to make here more focused on her remaining family?

Is any of this consistent with the way you intended to present Fran to your readers? Was it your intent that we think that this terrible experience had at least one silver lining in making Fran a "better" person than she was before?



Eman -- I know you are placing your question to Stewart, but I have a reaction I'm going to try to share. It seems to me a trite truism that all tragedies have "silver linings" -- if nothing else, we as humans are quite capable of either identifying or creating such linkages if we try hard enough. Horror stories like 9/11 abound with them. But, true or no, real or fabricated, it seems false positivism to let silver linings obscure dreadful reality. The creation of positive results may be a healthy way of dealing with disaster, but isn't it a treacherous, slippery slope to view such as the fruits of tragedy?
"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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Stewart_ONan
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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



bookhunter wrote:


Stewart_ONan wrote: 
 
...For me, it's neat seeing all the different reactions people have to the characters and to the way the book is put together--especially so when many of them have never read anything I've written, or come to the book from other genres (mystery, popular fiction, true crime).  ...  Getting my characters into the hands of good readers--that's an ideal situation
 
...
 
For me the books I write don't really end.  I can always go back and spend time with the characters, and inhabit the scenes--not just what I've written of them, but everything else going on around them that I didn't include on the page.  When you imagine something, you see a lot more than what the reader needs to see, but that world is solid and full and still there inside my head, so I can go back, say, to when they're driving back from Ed's mother's and come into town and see the fireworks going off over the lake, and I can stop the car and get out and sit with the people on their lawns or on the sidewalk (still hot from the day) and watch the rockets glide up and blossom again and again.  And while I'm there I'll see more--people smoking on their porches, and the glow of a TV inside, the lighthouse backlit by the colored reflections on the water.  That's the pleasure of having that imaginary world to go to--like having a book to read.
 
(please pardon the snipping by bookhunter)

Mr. O'Nan,
 
I love how you continuously refer to the "characters" in the book and not so much the "story" of the book.  This book is definitely more about the people in it than the events themselves.  I have not read any of your other books, so I don't know if this is typical of your writing.  Do you find that you focus more on the characters than the events?  Also, as in your response above, the settings seem to be very important to you.
 
Some books are enjoyable because of the rip-roaring story they tell, and others are great because of the compelling characters.  What is the difference in how a writer approaches the task when the focus is more on one or the other?
 
I am very much enjoying your responses to everyone's questions and again, appreciate your spending your time with us.
 
Ann, bookhunter
PS  We haven't talked much about Ed's mother, but I want to say that I loved her inclusion in the story--makes for a "complete" family that exists beyond just the town.


Thanks.  It's all one:  characters, action, setting, language, ideas.  They continuously impinge on one another, but at the heart of all serious drama is character.


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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



mwinasu wrote:
As I read through these posts I realized that the thing I liked most about this book seems to be driving others crazy.  How odd.  Your style feels very much like Kenzaburo Oe to me.  Your characters act Japanese and  the reader has to figure out how reality has been altered.  At first that kind of bugged me.  It felt like those  old movies where the Romans  all spoke English.  Inauthentic, I guess is the word.  That's what I meant when I said I was a snob.  You are not Japanese.  I wonder if I would have liked this book better if it had an Asian name attached to it.  Maybe.  You still need to slow down I think. It's  like trying to sell sushi at McDonald's, most Americans won't get it.  Good luck anyway.


Thanks--yeah, there's definitely an appreciation for the Japanese or even the zen approach of Basho to reality here, but I'd defend this approach as more authentic to life rather than less. 


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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



BookSavage wrote:


Stewart_ONan wrote:


bentley wrote:




This was a stunning explanation concerning JP and the above was very helpful.

Thank you, Bentley


Hope it wasn't too stunning.





You are making me smile again..I wish you would just get winded enough from another post to breakdown and explain your thinking about Kim. Still in their pitching.

Love the details about JP. I understand your intent so much better and JP too.

:smileyhappy:

Bentley

See, now I'm the one smiling.  My thinking about Kim is that she's the missing center of their lives, just as she's the missing center of the book around which everything revolves, eternally.  As long as there are questions as to what exactly happened to her, the people closest to her will always want to (need to) know those answers.  And THAT is what the book is about--the need and the inability to know, and how these people (how we) live with that.  Long after the book ends, Ed and Fran and Lindsay and Nina and Elise and J.P. and Wooze will still be living with that.
 
\


Its just too bad that the book did not do a good job portraying this and it had to be related in the discussion that the common reader will not get.


I obviously have more faith in the common reader than you do.


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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



dghobbs wrote:


Stewart_ONan wrote:


Tarri wrote:
Thank you for sharing Songs for the Missing with the First Look bookclub, it was an incredibly insightful looking into the aftermath of a family with a missing child. I don't know if you discussed the feelings a family goes through as hope wanes with a family who has gone through it, but your words brought the Larsen's emotions into sharp focus for me. At times, I had to set my book aside and do something other than read.
Why did you decide to have the murderer commit suicide as opposed to having the family go through a trial?
I look forward to reading more of your books.


Thank you for reading the book. The reason I had the murderer commit suicide in prison before divulging where Kim was was because that actually happened in the case I based the back half of the novel on, and that extra uncertainty was even more excruciating for the family (and for me, reading about it). The terror of the book is the not-knowing, and the motivation for the parents is always them trying to find out what happened and where she is, and this choice added to that drama.





Stewart,

As a parent who also has daughters in transition from home to the outer world (my daughters are 23, 19, and 15), I can only agree that parents will persist until they know what happened. I kept imagining what I would do in if one of my daughters disappeared and frankly my eyes teared up and I thought "I would do anything". Just as the parents finding out the murderer's suicide didn't stop them, I know parents would persist.

thank you for writing such a fascinating, thought-provoking, and Wonderfully well written Novel - :smileyhappy:Doug

Thanks so much for reading the book, and for your kind words.  That's absolutely right.  I think Lindsay says something like that near the end of the softball game section:  that her mother will always live with this, that it will never stop.


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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



BookSavage wrote:


Stewart_ONan wrote:


the_mad_chatter wrote:
That's exactly how I felt about Ed and I got so busted by some of the other posters! 
 
Can I also say that your use of water symbolism was awesome or was it just coincidence that Ed's favorite hobby...his boat on the lake...was a non-changing, stagnant body of water while we associate Nina with the river? 
 
and sonan wrote back:
 
 
Not sure why they busted on you for it.  The evidence is right there on the page.  It may be that people try to read too fast?  I know from experience that that's one of the major pitfalls when you're reviewing a book.  Or maybe the size of the print caused people to skim bits?  But you're right.
 
Don't know if I'd go as far as calling the lake/river thing symbolism, but it's true that Ed's idea of a good time is being out there by himself with no cares in the world, in a timeless, static present, while Kim's dreams always involve motion and action, escape.


This just cracked me up.  You defend what I consider to be the worst part of your writing (the characters) and sound like you did not even realize that you had actually done something quite literary with wonderful water symbolism.  You are unlike any writer I have ever talked to.


I'm just saying there's more than enough evidence on the page for the reader to make sense of how the characters are feeling, and to empathize with them--even before reading between the lines or drawing inferences. 
 
The water may bring with it some associations, but it's not a pointed scheme.  That is, I'm not using them as symbols. 


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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



BookSavage wrote:
I was not able to join this discussion for a while and have now come back to it and in some ways wish I hadn't.  I really liked the Ed that was in the book much better than the Ed that is being created in this discussion.

Stewart_ONan wrote:


Peppermill wrote:
Interesting. I know that I wasn't that hard on the Ed I encountered. I rather "liked" the guy for somehow sustaining some semblance of stability for his family when the world was unstable and some of that "stability" was inevitably the illusion he knew it to be. Maybe I've never known enough coaches!


Stewart_ONan wrote:
...Ed's actions after Kim's disappearance are a reflection of his personality. And his actions really don't change that much. His emotional response to the world may be depressive (he himself wonders if he's clinically depressed), but throughout, he tries to maintain the same kind of normal, private life, even when he knows he can't. But that's his ideal, so he keeps trying to go on that way, just as his ideal, professionally, is to have a strong housing market, even though that hasn't been true in Kingsville for years. His reaction, professionally, is to do nothing but what he's always done, and fret about it. He's a creature of habit (like most coaches) if not all-out inertia. [Emphasis added.]

Yes, you're exactly right--'sustaining some semblance of stability.'  Brilliantly put.  That's Ed right there, for better or worse.  I think it's a rather stoic way to go, noble but possibly misguided.  My take is that he does it as much for himself as for his family (and I think Fran would agree, as she's often frustrated with him), but, because of who he is, deep down, he may be incapable of doing anything else.  The experience shows him the limits of self-reliance, and as someone who's based his life on self-reliance (100% effort somehow rewarding you), he now understands that that may not be enough to save him or the people he loves.








Glad you liked your Ed, but I don't think you can say the discussion is creating a new Ed simply by quoting from his sections.


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Re: Questions for Stewart O'Nan



Everyman wrote:
On the thread on Fran, bookhunter wrote:

Do you all think that by the end of the book Fran is a "better" person? Has this whole experience caused her to grow positively?

She has stopped drinking pretty much. She lost weight, looks better, becomes more focused on her family relationships. It seems like the search for Kim gave her a purpose and a role she found fulfilling.


To which I replied:

If you're right, isn't it sad that it took the loss of a daughter to make her a better person, to stop her drinking, to make here more focused on her remaining family?

Is any of this consistent with the way you intended to present Fran to your readers? Was it your intent that we think that this terrible experience had at least one silver lining in making Fran a "better" person than she was before?

My intent was to let the reader feel what these five people felt as they went through this experience.  Naturally, readers will weigh what this experience has done to them, or, for the more judgmental, how they've done in getting through it.


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