07-02-2008 01:39 PM
As Seen on TV
What if a small-town girl, in the summer before she goes off to college, were to disappear? Stewart O'Nan's answer: Songs for the Missing, an exploration of the effects of such a disappearance on the girl's family, friends, and northern-Ohio community.
Songs is a series of markedly distant, third-person narratives (alternating among the girl's family and friends) that at times feel omniscient or even fly-on-the-wall. The style evokes the familiar television news coverage of similar real-life cases, and for me, permitted a mostly intellectual (vs emotional) connection with the characters. While I can make assumptions about their emotions and motivations, I read in order to develop new understandings -- by exploring the familiar very deeply, or by encountering a surprising, altogether unfamiliar perspective. While Songs was a pleasant read -- the first third provided an interesting documentary, the second a more emotional story, and the third a sudden and too-tidy wrap-up -- in the end, I came away with little new from the experience.
07-03-2008 06:53 AM
"I think of literature.....as a vast country to the far borders of which I am journeying but will never reach."
The Uncommon Reader
"You've been running around naked in the stacks again, haven't you?"
The Time Traveler's Wife
It is with books as with men; a very small number play a great part.
07-03-2008 01:21 PM
07-04-2008 08:11 AM
07-06-2008 03:35 AM
Songs For The Missing is the latest novel from, multiple award-winning writer, Stewart O'Nan. In this novel, you will find out exactly how a small town in Midwestern USA deals with the disappearance of a local high school girl. Kim Larsen begins the narrative while going through her daily life. This sets up a very good look at the relationships she has with family and friends and gives us a glimpse into her hopes and ambitions for the future. But suddenly with no forewarning, Kim simply vanishes.
From here on out the book is told from the perspectives of certain family members and friends. From the viewpoint of her parents, we come to understand how they feel while learning and undergoing the various ways to handle a missing child. Particularly interesting is the encounters they have with local police and FBI officials, both parents must reluctantly put their trust into these people to guide them while also trying to have faith that officials are doing as much as they can possibly do. From organizing search parties, printing posters and contacting online organizations, these parents give a detailed plan that would be valuable to any parent going through this themselves.
However, as upsetting as Kim's disappearance may be to her parents, her younger sister Lindsay appears to be the emotional center of the book. Although the two sisters are not all that close it becomes clear in Lindsay's narration that her older sister is the hero she strives to emulate. Throughout the novel Lindsay's guilt, love and bitterness towards her sister are revealed. Although Songs For The Missing is about a missing girl, it is obvious that this is merely a plot line devised to showcase Lindsay and how her life must change and evolve while suffering the loss and unknowable circumstances of her older sister.
To fulfill the thriller aspect of the novel, O'Nan has thrown in some sketchy characters to build suspicion and a secret between Kim and her friends that is not revealed when she is initially reported missing, but that builds tension between the characters throughout the story.
Songs For The Missing is a emotionally charged story that anyone can relate to which creates a wonderful drama, however the mystery portion seems to falter towards the ending. From the climax, the plot needed to have gradually wound down, tying up the loose ends in a neater way to add a more powerful ending. Overall a very good read, that has prompted me to search out previous works by Stewart O'Nan.
07-06-2008 11:27 PM
07-07-2008 11:56 AM
07-07-2008 03:34 PM
07-08-2008 12:42 PM
headline : Left Behind
This was a page turner. You can't put it down until you find out what happens to the people left behind when a teenage girl goes missing the summer before college. It's a story about the parents, sibling and friends. What do you do when you child goes missing? What can you do? What about the simple secrets of teenagers? Do they take on a much more sinister character now? What do you do with anger, frustration and despair?
This was a easy if disturbing read. It reminds everyone that when something like this happens it's the ones left behind that have to find a way forward. I recommend it.
07-09-2008 10:11 AM
Although Stewart O'Nan's book SONGS FOR THE MISSING gives the hope and impression of a fast paced, highly anticipated read, it falls short. Instead, the readers are the ones who will find themselves missing...missing out on a better book.
Kim Larsen, preparing to enter college, goes missing the summer before she is to leave. The story introduces Kim and her friends' characters fairly well and also leaves little clues of what secrets they may hold. Remember, however, clues are meant to hopefully lead to an eventual answer. These do not. Kim's family, with parents Fran and Ed, are described well and the book really spends a great deal of its time on their reactions and what they do as they try to find Kim. Also, almost as a side story is the sister, Lindsay, who is trying to be a person on her own, rather just than "Kim's little sister".
O'Nan writes in detail of how both parents go about dealing with trying to find their daughter in their own way. Unless one has been through such a tragic event, it is close to impossible to judge how one should act or feel. And yet, as the reader, one's common sense tends to find some of the parents actions questionable. We see how the parents feel about Kim and all her friends including the boyfriend but are never quite satisfied with any of the open-ended questions especially as many are never answered. It is this kind of writing that leads the reader to find it hard to engage themselves with these characters and the story.
In many of O'Nan's other books like LAST NIGHT AT THE LOBSTER, we are entertained and satisfied with his writing. Unfortunately, I was not with SONGS FOR THE MISSING. I expected so much more and just when I thought I would give up on reading the book, it did pull me back in with hopes of what I might find out, but those hopes were quickly dashed. As I read through to the end of the book, I was left flat and sorry as I felt the end was rushed and had more time been spent in tying up loose ends, the book could have worked better. I am sure there are some who could find symbolism and comparisons of character studies, but I don't like to have to work quite that hard to read a novel. Thank you for the opportunity at least to try. Good luck with the next book!
Other books I like: A Thousand Splendid Suns, The Lovely Bones, and The Last Lecture
07-09-2008 02:31 PM
07-10-2008 01:27 PM - edited 07-10-2008 01:35 PM
I give this book 5 stars
Songs for the Missing was a very well-written book following the story not of the missing young girl but of her family and friends. The disappearance, the loss, the helplessness, the hope, the eventual acceptance, all are there and we live it with them. It is a book about relationships as well. Every step was believable. Having been through sudden emotional trauma myself (albeit not the same trauma), I know that as time passes and you start to notice the rest of the world, it's a tremendous shock to find out that you have been going at one pace while the rest of the world has gone on much faster and carried on without you. I could feel some of this through various stages of the book. Many people are not aware of this feeling until something happens in their own lives. The discoveries about the girl herself, the maturing of her younger sister, the distance then closeness in the family members are all in the book. I don't think any part was missed in this book and I highly recommend it. It is not the type of book you get to read very often. You don't get the feeling of sensationalism, only the feeling that you are one of the participants. However, for me the ending seemed like it was just trying to close loose ends of the various characters. Did I enjoy it? Yes, for the writing and for its honesty.
Message Edited by readerbynight on 07-10-2008 10:33 AM
Message Edited by readerbynight on 07-10-2008 10:35 AM
07-10-2008 06:06 PM
07-10-2008 09:59 PM
Title: A Challenge to Rate
This book is difficult to rate. Although it is fictional, it is based on an amalgamation of actual situations, and reads more like a true life report than a novel. The beginning is gripping and seizes the reader, but from the middle on it flags and drifts away from the excitement of a suspense novel into the reality of a family finding a way to go on going on despite the absence and presumed death of the elder daughter. The ending, though apparently based on something that actually happened, seems contrived and rushed.
A reader looking for a traditional mystery will find this disappointing. There is no real resolution, and the reader looking for a story with a beginning, middle, and end will leave the book confused and dissatisfied. For this reader, the book is rated 3, and is only saved from being a 2 by being very well written.
However, the author is most deliberately not looking for a reader wanting a traditional mystery. Rather, the author has written a book for readers who appreciate ambiguity, who understand that real life doesn't resolve itself comfortably, who value the close examination of of the dynamics of a family, family members, and a small, close knit community faced with an event which shocks them out of their comfortable, routine lives. For such readers, the book is a delight, and deserves a full five star rating.
But since one cannot give both a three and a five star rating to the same book, one settles on the average and hopes that readers using this review will appreciate what they want in a book and therefore whether this is a good book for them.
I think, therefore I drive people nuts.
07-12-2008 07:28 AM
07-13-2008 10:39 AM
A Parent's Worst Nightmare
What would you do if your teenager went missing? How would you react?
In Songs for the Missing Stewart O'Nan tells a compelling story from the perspective of the victims friends and family. I would definitely recommend this novel.
07-13-2008 04:55 PM
07-14-2008 10:45 AM
"Be who you are and say what you feel, because those who mind don't matter, and those who matter don't mind." Dr. Seuss