Songs for the Missing: Book summary and reviews of Songs for the Missing by Stewart O'Nan

Songs for the Missing

A Novel

By Stewart O'Nan

Songs for the Missing
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  • Published in USA  Nov 2008,
    320 pages.

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Book Summary

It was the summer of her Chevette, of J.P. and letting her hair grow. It was also the summer when, without warning, popular high school student Kim Larsen disappeared from her small midwestern town. Her loving parents, her introverted sister, her friends and boyfriend must now do everything they can to find her. As desperate search parties give way to pleading television appearances, and private investigations yield to personal revelations, we see one town's intimate struggle to maintain hope and, finally, to live with the unknown.

Stewart O’Nan's new novel begins with the suspense and pacing of a thriller and soon deepens into an affecting family drama of loss. On the heels of his critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling Last Night at the Lobster, Songs for the Missing is an honest, heartfelt account of one family’s attempt to find their child. With a soulful empathy for these ordinary heroes, O'Nan draws us into the world of this small American town and allows us to feel a part of this family.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. O'Nan proves that uncertainty can be the worst punishment of all in this unflinching look at an unraveling family." - Publishers Weekly.

"The grief, worry, and hope surges up and down as good and bad news arrives, giving those of us lucky enough not to face this kind of loss a glimpse of what it must be like to have one's life turned upside down in a matter of days." - Library Journal.

"Starred Review. A novel in which every word rings true. " - Kirkus Reviews.

"Songs For The Missing is both profound and profoundly beautiful. A haunting meditation on the power of those we lose, its emotional resonance defies description. Like most of Stewart O'Nan's work, my ultimate response was the highest praise one writer can pay another: envy. I so dearly wish I'd written it." - Dennis Lehane.

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Reader Reviews

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Rated 5 of 5 of 5 by CarolK
A Story of Love and Loss
Connecticut is fortunate to have many fine authors, Stewart O'Nan, being one of them. This past summer I read three books about missing children. One of these and the best by far was O'Nan's Songs for the Missing. There are only so many plots and it always amazes me how differently each author will handle similar stories. It sounds like a simple plot. Eighteen year old Kim Larsen disappears from her Lake Erie town. Read this opening and see if you are not intrigued to continue...

“Description of the Person, when Last Seen

July, 2005. It was the summer of the 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.”

It should have been a summer of swimming at the lake, after work late night dates, a last glorious summer respite before college life begins. All this changes in an instant. Here one moment, gone the next. O'Nan's pen explores this tragic event so beautifully that at times you almost forget the underlying story of love, and loss. He gives us a detailed view of what it means to lose a loved one and how this missing affects each member of Kim's family; how each relates to the other, the ebb and tide of hope, and how each member tries to live without being disloyal to Kim. It's about the regrets, the sadness, the grief, what was and was not said or done.

This is not a fast read and probably would not appeal to thriller readers. It takes a bit of commitment on the reader's part but is definitely worth the effort. The best of O'Nan to date.

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Author Information

Stewart O'Nan Author Biography

Stewart O'Nan's award-winning fiction includes Snow Angels, The Speed Queen, A Prayer for the Dying, and Last Night at the Lobster. Granta named him one of America’s Best Young Novelists. He lives in Pittsburgh.

Link to Stewart O'Nan's Website

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