07-14-2008 11:51 AM
As many reviewers before me have said this book has two distinct parts, the mystery of the daughter's disappearance and the drama of those left behind. Perhaps it is my penchant for fast passed thrillers that left me unsatisfied as I was more interested in the who-dun-it than the other stories. I wanted to know more about what happened and why it happened, not caring about the guilt and "should have beens" that were going through everyone else's minds. When it came time to tie the two sections together it seemed flat and hurried. In the end an unsatisfying book that started with such promise.
07-16-2008 03:40 PM
07-16-2008 05:55 PM
A very realistic story.
This story is played out time after time in many towns. A girl disappears from her small midwest town. So sad to see the family suffering. It was a realistic story to the end.
07-17-2008 03:35 PM
07-17-2008 05:53 PM
One bright summer afternoon, high school graduate Kim never arrives for her evening job with her friends at the local Conoco station just off the Ohio Interstate. The next morning her family and friends awaken to the nightmare that never leaves, only fades, sometimes painfully recurs. A missing relationship may forever haunt many of their lives.
Stewart O’Nan focuses his novel on the aftermath of Kim’s disappearance. This gifted, albeit flawed, writer attempts to take his readers deep into the impact of the seeming loss of Kim under tragic circumstances. O’Nan uses shifting third person limited points of view to permit the reader to watch family, friends, community, police forces, and strangers react to the tragedy and the subsequent searches for answers. I had the privilege of reading a pre-publication copy of this book and discussing it with an on-line network of like first-time readers. The story and its characters are probably indelible for me – certainly scraps and pieces shall be.
O’Nan cares deeply about his characters, but doesn’t always succeed in extracting that same empathy from his readers. Although his descriptions of the surrounding environment are almost magical at times, he demands participation, even perhaps extrapolation and mind reading, by his readers to comprehend his characters and their stories. Although most of us as readers can foist our imagined motivations unto the characters, some of us wanted O’Nan to reveal a tad more of the inner life of his characters--their motivations and emotions as well as their actions. Deeds done do not intuit “why.” Only then could some of us have tested our own projected reactions in such trying circumstances and perhaps found appropriate empathy for the characters, now better understanding their motivations for their choices. (And may none of us ever have to walk this path.)
Having dwelt as deeply with the issue of missing young adults as O’Nan had, he might have provided an appendix with resources (at least Internet) on safety, the first hours after a person is believed missing, major efforts like Amber Alert and the National Directory for Missing Persons, and links for information on sexual offenders. Yes, we can all use Google, but a well edited few pages could have been an interesting, even perhaps useful and certainly awareness-raising, addition.
Despite my misgivings, I give Songs for the Missing a three and a half star rating, which is an attempt to say to would-be readers, you can get enough from this book to be worth your time reading it – and that getting can be deeply satisfying if you are willing to give the story and author a little space. (Okay, four stars for your calculations, Maria.) Although the pace slows a bit in the center of the novel, sending impatient readers to the final pages, the momentum also matches that of the episode itself, as the search for Kim continues interminably and then is finally interrupted by momentous developments. Even the less credulous developments are based on actual incidents.
I preferred Songs for the Missing to The Lovely Bones, by Alice Sebold, which treats a missing child story more from the viewpoint of the child. But the two would make an interesting pair for any book group that hasn’t already tackled Sebold. They are both relatively quick and engrossing reads.
O’Nan reports that the writers Chekhov, Virginia Woolf, William Maxwell (long time New Yorker editor), Larry Woiwode (poet laureate of North Dakota) and Alice Munro (often called a writer’s writer) have influenced his character development style. He is currently re-reading the work of William Maxwell. O’Nan is also the author of a number of other novels.
07-18-2008 07:44 AM
07-19-2008 06:36 PM - edited 07-19-2008 06:37 PM
While this was not what I would typically choose for a book to read, I must admit I was sucked right into it and had a hard time putting it down. Stewart O'Nan pulled me right into the world of Kim, a missing teenage girl. The story seemed to effortlessly move from the points of view of Kim's distraught parents, her sister, and her friends. In reading I was struck by the very real depiction of the hidden side of many teen's lives, and how the secrets they keep can cause such pain for a family.At certain points in the book, I found myself feeling great anxiety for Kim's family and their situation, and wondering how things would turn out for them--wanting them to have resolution. It struck me later that that sense of anxiety and tension must be similar to how the families and friends of missing people must feel everyday, waiting for an end. Kudos to Stewart O'Nan for being able to put a reader into the world of his characters and make them feel what the characters feel.
07-19-2008 09:57 PM
This is a powerful and gripping novel. It kept my interest all the way through. It is about the life and family of a teenage girl that is Missing. Her family and friends are looking for her . It kept my interest until the last where there was a strange ending; however I still feel this to be a good read. It held my intereted till I found what happened and how the family and friends reacted to what happened to her.
07-20-2008 02:47 AM
I found Songs of the Missing to be a good, but not great read. In dealing with the aftermath of an older child's disappearance from the family's and friends's perspectives was a great storyline. However, I was unable to connect with most of the characters. I felt their reactions were not quite explored fullly. With Fran and Lindsey I felt O'Nan came the closest to engaging me in what they were experiencing and how they were dealing with the situation.
I really didn't think the novel showed very well how the characters were changed by what had happened. I would get really involved with the characters at some points and then........"whoooooosh", O'Nan would just drop it. Since the storyline was intended to be about the missing girl's inner circle's reactions, I supposed it wasn't necessary to detail what had happened to her, but I felt a definite sense of "let down" at the end when I realized we would never know.
I would give this a 3 star rating.
07-22-2008 02:06 PM
Realistic or purely fictitious?
Stewart O'Nan's Song for the Missing is a wonderful piece of work. The plot is well written and it was a great treat to be able to experience the emotions of different characters. O'Nan did a great job of depicting realistic situations that occur when someone goes missing. The questions, the doubt, the fear and confusion was very tangible. This book made me think of what I would do in a similar situation. The cast of characters were also very "real." It was easy to identify people I know in this fictitious tale. The depiction of small town life, also answered some of the questions I often wondered about. The symbolism of the river and water was also interesting. I didn't understand the complexity of life in a small town and how everything; people and nature, alike play a significant part in survival in a small town. There is a sense of irony that pervades throughout the novel, and it forces readers to ask questions about the events that take place. This book enabled readers to insert themselves in the body of work, and made the experiences of each character more real. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I give it a 5 star rating.
"Adversity causes some people to break, but causes others to break records."
07-22-2008 11:16 PM
Keeps you thinking!
Throughout the entire book I was constantly thinking about what could possibly happen next. There were times that I did have to backtrack a bit to remind myself what had happened before. There were a few occasions that left it to you to figure it out. I do enjoy that in a book.
07-23-2008 04:03 AM - edited 07-23-2008 04:04 AM
Just not for me...
Songs for the Missing just was not for me. It was an easy, quick read, but very unsatisfying in the end. I never "got" the characters, understood them, or even really liked them. The story was fine, just kept waiting for something, anything to happen. The ending was the end of me-wanted to throw this book across the room! I appreciate the opportunity, but I probably won't be reading alot of O'Nan's writing anytime in the near future...
I would recommend Water for Elephants, The Missing, and Gilding Lily.
07-23-2008 01:07 PM
07-23-2008 02:44 PM
07-23-2008 06:34 PM
Songs for the Missing took me sometime to get through. I loved where the book was going but I always felt like I wanted more or that something was missing.
Once I finally (and I mean finally because it took me a long time to get through this book )I was disappointed with the ending. I was dissapointed inmany areas of this book.
The book had a great plot to it but it could have been written with more detail to it.
I have to give it 2 stars...
07-23-2008 07:36 PM
A Confusing Story
Part of this story was utter confusion and I understood it to a point. When parents lose a child they are confused. No one knows where the child is and it's like looking for a needle in a haystack. Mr. O'Nan captured that mood perfectly. But I wanted to know why this happened. What was the reason? I felt like I was getting half a story and it left me dissatisfied.
07-25-2008 08:20 PM
It seems that I somehow forgot to post my review here, even though I posted it elsewhere long ago. My apologies- here it is:
4 Stars A Unexpected Pleasure
Kim Larsen is a typical teenager, treading water during the final summer months between high school and college. Hanging out with friends, drinking, dating, going to the beach, and working swing shift at a local gas station- just enjoying a normal Midwestern youth. Until, one day, she disappears.
The bulk of the book takes place after Kim's disappearance, following her family and friends as they go through the various stages of loss- anger, denial, depression, mania, and regret. Although Kim is only an active character for the first fourteen pages, her presence haunts all of the character in different ways, affecting their lives long after the living person is gone. One of the things that I really liked about the book was the way that the action really fit the progression of time. The days immediately following Kim's disappearance are meticulously described, with all the frenetic hope coming through the writing. As time progresses, and the search begins to stagnate, events are only described as they relate to the plot. Things slow down, and the book loses its manic edge, mirroring the family's unwilling acceptance of reality. In operas, good composers create music that mirrors the tone of the storyline; Mr. O'Nan has done the same with his writing in this book.
When I read the summary of this book, my first thought was "Pass." I'm not big on heartwarming tales, or stories of loss and redemption. Then, because it was free and I am a poor book addict, I gave it another look and decided it might be okay. I then promptly forgot all about it until it arrived in the mail. I dutifully set aside my three in-progress books and began this one. By the third page, I was hooked.
This book could easily have been maudlin, or coldly cynical, but it was neither. The real strength of the book lies in the author's portrayals of the family members, that are so realistic that you can imagine each member quite vividly. Little details, like a person's preferred brand of cigarettes, or the small of the Dairy Queen, help bring the small town where the bulk of the book takes place to life. Each character feels fleshed out, and their grief comes through as real. Going along with the depth of the characters is the depiction of grief. Having experienced the unexpected loss of a loved one, I recognized so many of the stages that my family went through, as each person learns how to grieve in his or her own way, and the various family members try to respect the different ways people have of coping, with varying success.
Lest I sound too rhapsodic, I will mention a few things I disliked. Kim's friends kind of drift in and out of the story, and there's not a lot of resolution regarding them. I think that was largely intentional, as the book shows the reality of the loss shifting from the community at large, to the circle of friends, to, finally, just the family. however, that did mean there were some loose ends that I would have liked the author to clarify. Again, I think this was a conscious choice on the part of the author, but a bit more info would have been nice. Also, although the pop culture references worked in general, they do also date the book in sometimes strange ways. The characters seem, by and large, reasonably tech-savvy, which made me keep wondering why they couldn't use (or at least discuss) more fancypants forensics. Maybe that's just me watching too much CSI, but it did strike me as odd.
All in all, however, I was very pleasantly surprised by what was a highly insightful look at family grief, combined with a gripping story and sympathetic, flawed, human characters. An excellent read.
07-26-2008 11:10 AM
07-26-2008 10:24 PM
The woman, Kim Larsen, is an average, pretty young woman in an average town. The narrative swings back and forth between various perspectives- her mother Fran, father Ed, sister Lindsay, boyfriend J.P., and best friend Nina. On the surface, everything is proceeding as one might expect. The tragedy of Kim's disappearance starts out very publicly; the community rallies, everybody helps out with the search. Fran goes on the Internet and on TV, she passes out buttons and businesses donate goods and service to help out. But as time stretches on slowly and public interest diminishes, the tragedy becomes a private one as the family must deal with their loss after the cameras stop. For them, surviving means the slow transformations that take shape as their lives move forward in a way different from what they expected.
The action is pretty straightforward and there are no big surprises, so for me, the novel was all about these transformations, and the two characters I found the most rewarding to watch were Fran and Lindsay. Lindsay is Kim's younger sister, the shy nerd to Kim's athletic extrovert. People refer to her as "little Larsen" as if she were merely an extension of her prettier, more outgoing sister. As time goes on and Lindsay adjusts to her new identity as the girl whose sister is missing, we see how Kim's disappearance is shaping her and changing the young woman she becomes. Fran, a hospital worker, finds meaning and challenge in the search for her daughter and begins to come to life in a small way. Which is not to say that one is glad to lose one's daughter, but these things happen in all of our lives and the book made me think about how these tragedies shape us all, for good and for ill.
Songs for the Missing isn't what I'd call a loud book- a book that calls a lot of attention to itself with nonstop action or a flashy premise. It's very character-driven and I enjoyed reading it for the empathy and compassion O'Nan shows towards his characters as they traverse through different emotional stages and slowly integrate Kim's loss into their ongoing lives. His writing is quiet, subtle and effective as he nudges emotional truths from each. Instead of big statements, the book is full of subtlety and the small moments that make up a life. It's a good book, and it's worth a read.
07-27-2008 10:01 AM
I received this book as part of Barnes and Nobles First Look program.
One ordinary summer day between graduation-from-high-school and looking-forward-to-college, Kim Larsen vanished without a trace. This is the story of her family and friends; their struggle with her disappearance from the frantic first hours, to several years later.
It’s by no means an easy story to read although it is compelling. We’re quickly sucked into a vortex of somewhat flawed but functional ordinary lives as the people surrounding Kim deal with their loss, their hopes, their reality.
Unlike a TV drama with answers neatly provided at the end of the hour, mysteries linger on at the book’s conclusion, just as they often do in real life, All of the characters are very reserved emotionally; at times I longed for one of them to express more feeling than the rare quiet tear over this event which clearly changed their lives forever. While this leaves room for the readers’ own emotions to be inserted into the story, I found this aspect of the story unsatisfying.
Nevertheless, this is a memorable read. I will never again hear the story of a missing person without thinking of their loved ones’ nightmare and of this book.