Summary and book reviews of If I Am Missing or Dead by Janine Latus

If I Am Missing or Dead

A Sister's Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation

By Janine Latus

If I Am Missing or Dead
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2007,
    320 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2008,
    336 pages.

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Book Summary

In April 2002, Janine Latus's youngest sister, Amy, wrote a note and taped it to the inside of her desk drawer. Today Ron Ball and I are romantically involved, it read, but I fear I have placed myself at risk in a variety of ways. Based on his criminal past, writing this out just seems like the smart thing to do. If I am missing or dead this obviously has not protected me...

That same spring Janine Latus was struggling to leave her marriage -- a marriage to a handsome and successful man. A marriage others emulated. A marriage in which she felt she could do nothing right and everything wrong. A marriage in which she felt afraid, controlled, inadequate, and trapped.

Ten weeks later, Janine Latus had left her marriage. She was on a business trip to the East Coast, savoring her freedom, attending a work conference, when she received a call from her sister Jane asking if she'd heard from Amy. Immediately, Janine's blood ran cold. Amy was missing.

Helicopters went up and search dogs went out. Coworkers and neighbors and family members plastered missing posters with Amy's picture across the county. It took more than two weeks to find Amy's body, wrapped in a tarpaulin and buried at a building site. It took nearly two years before her killer, her former boyfriend Ron Ball, was sentenced for her murder.

Amy died in silent fear and pain. Haunted by this, Janine Latus turned her journalistic eye inward. How, she wondered, did two seemingly well-adjusted, successful women end up in strings of physically or emotionally abusive relationships with men? If I Am Missing or Dead is a heart-wrenching journey of discovery as Janine Latus traces the roots of her own -- and her sister's -- victimization with unflinching candor. This beautifully written memoir will move readers from the first to the last page. At once a confession, a call to break the cycle of abuse, and a deeply felt love letter to her baby sister, Amy Lynne Latus, If I Am Missing or Dead is an unforgettable read.

Chapter One

Amy is born a fighter, six weeks early and a wispy five pounds. Her blood is incompatible with Mom's, so the doctors replace it, draining out the old while infusing the new. Her heart stops anyway. So they pump her tiny baby chest and blow air into her tiny baby lungs until she squalls, and then send her home to round out our family of seven.

The year is 1965, and it is my parents' third go-round with babies and death. The first had come in 1960, when I woke my mother before dawn, crying for a bottle. At four months and four days old, I was a blue-eyed Gerber baby, the spitting image of my father. Across the room slept my exact replica, my twin sister, Janette. A few weeks earlier our picture had made the front page of the local paper when a smiling mayoral candidate held us up for the cameras. He later complained about the fuzz our blanket left on his black suit coat.

My mother put her hand on Janette's back to feel her breathing. Then she yelled for Dad...

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Introduction

In a memoir that is by turns harrowing and humorous, Janine Latus recounts both her own and her sister Amy's dealings with men, beginning with their father. From the traumatic childbirth experiences of their mother to the daily reminders from their father that their looks are what matter most, both Janine and Amy take away from their childhood's a sense that, as young women, they are unworthy, even sinful, by nature. In spite of their strength, intelligence, and strong bond with each other, both Janine and Amy find themselves trapped in relationships with abusive and controlling men. Fortunately, Janine is able to escape this cycle. Amy, however, does not.

If I Am Missing or Dead explores issues faced by ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

Even if you feel you've read your fill of memoirs about domestic violence, take a look at If I Am Missing or Dead, which stands out from the crowd for a number of factors, not least being the quality of its writing.   (Reviewed by BookBrowse Review Team).

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Media Reviews
Kirkus Reviews

Latus writes here to save the lives of women like her sister and herself, so desperate for love that they'll pay any price for it. An honest, unsparing look at the deadly erosion of self-worth.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Unforgettable, unsentimental and profoundly affecting, Latus's book resonates long after the final page is turned.

People magazine

Unfolds like a gripping novel...gorgeous prose...[Janine's] bravery...shines in her struggle to rediscover her own self worth.

Author Blurb Julie Gregory, author of Sickened
From the first line I was captured and couldn't put the book down. In these pages is the echo of so many other stories I have known. You may have known Amy. You might have been Amy. I could have been Amy. For anyone trapped in the maddening internal banter that justifies another's sinister actions, read this book. You will walk taller from these pages. A story of heartbreak and liberation.

Author Blurb Betsy Lerner, author of Food and Loathing
Janine Latus' memoir of domestic abuse depicts two life journeys: Janine's own escape from a violent boyfriend and her sister's tragic death at the hands of one. Both stories are powerful cautionary tales that shine a bright light into the darkness of domestic abuse. There are no heroes here -- just real people whose bravely told stories could save lives.

Reader Reviews
Judy Warren

If I am Missing or Dead
I thought I was going to read about Amy, not Janine Latus. I was frustrated that never happened until the last few pages. While I loved the author's writing style, at times I found the book overwhelmingly narcisstic since the focus was all about ...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

If I Am Missing or Dead is Janine Latus's first book. She is a freelance writer, radio commentator, and regular speaker on domestic abuse issues. She has busked on the streets of Chicago to write about what it's like to sing for your supper. She has galloped the beaches of the Dominican Republic, eaten her way through Kansas City and danced herself into a frenzy, all to gather the kind of you-are-there details that make a story sing. She has coaxed women to tell her how much they weigh and why, and couples to ...

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