July, 2005. It was the summer of her Chevette, of J.P. and letting her hair grow. The last summer, the best summer, the summer they’d dreamed of since eighth grade, the high and pride of being seniors lingering , an extension of their best year. She and Nina and Elise, the Three Amigos. In the fall they were gone, off to college, where she hoped, a long and steady effort, she might become someone else, a private, independent person, someone not from Kingsville at all. -From Songs for the Missing, page 1-
In the summer of her 18th year, Kim Larsen disappears without a trace – leaving behind friends and family who are bewildered and hurting. This is not an unusual story. It is a story we see every day in America – the young women filled with potential disappearing into the darkness of uncertainty. Many are never found. Many are found murdered or raped. It is an old story. Stewart O’Nan, with his refined and elegant prose, takes this story and makes it unforgettable.
Songs for the Missing is about those left behind. It is about relationships and expectations and faith and the very human need to know why and where. The characters in this beautifully written novel include Kim’s mother Fran, her sister Lindsey (only 15 when Kim goes missing), her father Ed, and friends – J.P., Elise and Nina. Each character deals with Kim’s disappearance differently, and as the months rolls into years they each come to terms with it in their own unique way. My heart felt broken by Ed – the father who searches relentlessly for the daughter he could not keep safe and who wishes for her to come to him in his dreams.
One reason he didn’t take the pill was that he longed for a dream of Kim. He didn’t expect her to tell him what had happened, he just wanted to see her again, to be in her presence as if she were alive and none of this had happened. Every night he went to bed hoping she’d come to him. Every morning he was disappointed. -From Songs for the Missing-
This novel touched my heart, especially because of my own involvement with Search and Rescue. O’Nan got it perfectly when he describes the searches, the role of law enforcement and the nearly unbearable hope of the lost one’s family which permeates every search. As the novel unfolds, I found myself immersed in the emotions of the characters, hoping they would find Kim and come to a resolution.
O’Nan has written a tender, sensitive and all too real novel about what happens when a loved one disappears. Highly recommended.
Other readers who have reviewed this book: