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Bookmarks Issue: 
38-Jan-Feb-2009
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A-Songs for the MissingSongs for the Missing is Stewart O’Nan’s 12th novel. Others include Snow Angel, The Good Wife ( 4 of 5 Stars July/Aug 2005), Late Night at the Lobster ( 4 of 5 Stars Selection Mar/Apr 2008), and The Names of the Dead, as well as a nonfiction memoir, Faithful (penned with fellow Red Sox fanatic Stephen King), and Poe, a screenplay.

The Story: The Story: When beautiful, popular, conscientious 18-year-old Kim Larsen disappears from Kingsville, a small Ohio town, lives are thrown into disarray. Her family and community members dedicate themselves to finding the girl; they canvass the town and plead in the media for Kim’s safe return. Lindsay, Kim’s younger sister, becomes more withdrawn as Kim, even in her absence, receives all the attention. The novel focuses on Kim’s friends (including a boyfriend and a best friend), her devastated sister and parents, and the larger community who become part of the story, which centers on the lasting effects of Kim’s disappearance. All involved discover that they must put their lives back together if they are to try to overcome their shocking loss.
Viking. 287 pages. $25.95. ISBN: 067002032X

Denver Post 4.5 of 5 Stars
"Songs for the Missing is anything but an easy read, but it’s a spectacular one. And, like most of O’Nan’s work, one that resolutely draws the reader in and refuses to let go." Robin Vidimos

St. Petersburg Times 4.5 of 5 Stars
"O’Nan recounts, in spare but evocative prose, what happens as the days and weeks and months pass, the volunteers dwindle, the satellite trucks pursue another breaking tragedy, and the family and friends of the missing child must face themselves. One of the great strengths of Songs for the Missing is that very little of what happens then is what you might expect—and yet it rings entirely, heartbreakingly true." Colette Bancroft

Cleveland Plain Dealer 4 of 5 Stars
"For the people of Northeast Ohio, which is where the gifted Stewart O’Nan has set his riveting book, it will feel a little like passing a car accident and seeing yourself there, trapped behind the steering wheel. … Songs for the Missing is an engaging and often excruciating read; it makes vivid our most dreadful thoughts, forcing us to contemplate the kind of thing we like to believe only happens elsewhere." Steven Hayward

Dallas Morning News 4 of 5 Stars
"After hooking readers with the fast-paced opening, Mr. O’Nan edges away from the easy payoffs of the thriller genre. … He gives the reader the more ordinary satisfaction of characters who confront tragedy and doggedly endure." Shawna Seed

Hartford Courant 4 of 5 Stars
"With his faultless ear for the way real people talk and uncanny ability to illuminate ordinary lives, O’Nan mines literary riches in the least promising places. … O’Nan runs into a problem: the exquisite tension he creates is what powers the story, and the ending, which won’t be revealed here, inevitably lets some air out." Carole Goldberg

Milwaukee Jrnl Sentinel 4 of 5 Stars
"His biography notes that in his fiction O’Nan likes to explore what happens when terrible things happen suddenly and inexplicably to ordinary people. Songs for the Missing fills that bill and delivers." Georgia Pabst

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The question of what happened to Kim informs the action, and the reader may feel manipulated by a few too many surprise twists in the crime investigation." Clara Silverstein

Critical Summary

Stewart O’Nan has quietly written his way to the top rank of American novelists working today, and Songs for the Missing showcases his skill for molding character-driven novels remarkable for their clarity of vision and an unflinching eye for situations that lay bare human emotion. There is little spectacular here, save for O’Nan’s storytelling abilities and his uncanny knowledge of how one event can send out ripples that affect everyone in a small Midwestern town (incidentally, the author’s old stomping grounds). Even more satisfying and heartbreaking is O’Nan’s understanding of what happens when the lights dim, attention fades, and people are left to live their lives.