MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Excerpt from If I Am Missing or Dead by Janine Latus, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

If I Am Missing or Dead

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

by Janine Latus

If I Am Missing or Dead by Janine Latus X
If I Am Missing or Dead by Janine Latus
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Apr 2007, 320 pages
    Paperback:
    Apr 2008, 336 pages

    Genres

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team
Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt

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, who came running. He blew air into her mouth and pressed on her chest, but it was too late. Janette was dead. An errant air bubble or an electrical glitch stopped her heart. Crib death. Cause unknown.

Mom gave birth to Pat barely a year later. Pat was a month early and on the light side at five and a quarter pounds, but within days the local paper announced that mother and daughter were at home and doing fine. Ten days later, though, Mom was in the kitchen warming up a bottle when blood started pouring down her legs. It soaked through her clothes and puddled on the floor. An ambulance came, siren wailing, and rushed her to the hospital. Doctors elevated the foot of her bed and covered her head with an oxygen tent. Through the muffling of the plastic tent she could hear my father and the doctors and nurses, but she couldn't respond.

She heard, too, the eerie chant of the priest giving her last rites. "God, the father of mercies, through the death and resurrection of His Son has reconciled the world to himself and sent the Holy Spirit among us for the forgiveness of sins; through the ministry of the church may God give you pardon and peace."

Still she bled, until she was drained, until her heart had nothing left to pump, until it stopped.

"I absolve you from your sins, in the name of the Father, and the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Through the holy mysteries of our redemption, may almighty God release you from all punishments in this life and in the life to come. May He open to you the gates of paradise and welcome you to everlasting joy."

Long moments passed as doctors scrambled to get it to pump again. Then they rushed her, bed and all, into the operating room. They scraped out the inside of her uterus and gave her half a dozen blood transfusions. When she finally came home, she had to stay in bed for three months, her children pestering for attention.


As an adult I ask my father why he kept getting her pregnant if it was so hard on Mom.

Do you and your husband have sex? he asks.

I hesitate, trying to decide what and whether to answer.

Of course, I say finally.

Then you know, he answers. Men...have...needs.


By the time Amy is a toddler we live in Kalamazoo, in a two-story box of a house on a double lot, the yard framed by a pair of the huge maple trees that give the street its name. There is a screened-in front porch and a fire escape to one of the girls' bedrooms that scares us all, so we push our bunk beds against it to protect against the boogeyman.

Steve is the eldest and most responsible. He cemented his reputation in the family one Easter when he was about seven by saying, "If we don't get organized, we won't have any fun." I worship him, usually from afar, but sometimes on Saturdays my sisters and I leap onto him as he's stretched out on the floor watching sports, secure that he will be careful even then to throw us off onto cushions or soft rugs, avoiding as much as possible the hard edges of tables and bookcases.

Copyright © by Janine Latus

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $39 for 3 months or $12 for a year
  • More about membership!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Revisioners
    The Revisioners
    by Margaret Wilkerson Sexton
    The chapters of Margaret Wilkerson Sexton's second novel, The Revisioners, alternate between three ...
  • Book Jacket: Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen
    Mary Toft; or, The Rabbit Queen
    by Dexter Palmer
    The year is 1726 and the sleepy town of Godalming has been rocked by scandal. Called to the bedside ...
  • Book Jacket: Life Undercover
    Life Undercover
    by Amaryllis Fox
    Life Undercover, a riveting true-adventure memoir, reveals how and why a young woman decides to work...
  • Book Jacket: Celestial Bodies
    Celestial Bodies
    by Jokha Alharthi
    One typically expects to find a detailed family tree adorning the opening pages of, say, an epic ...

Book Club Discussion
Book Jacket
The Lost Man
by Jane Harper

"Strong characters, riveting plot and an honest look at life in the Australian outback make it easy to give this 5-stars!"
—BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Readers Recommend

  • Book Jacket

    You Were There Too
    by Colleen Oakley

    Acclaimed author Colleen Oakley delivers a heart-wrenching and unforgettable love story.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    Lady Clementine
    by Marie Benedict

    An illuminating look at one of history's most unusual and extraordinary women, Clementine Churchill.
    Reader Reviews

Book Club Giveaway!
Win American Dirt

"A Grapes of Wrath for our times." - Don Winslow

This debut is already being hailed as a new American classic, and is the first book to receive a perfect 5-stars from BookBrowse reviewers!

Enter

Wordplay

Solve this clue:

V I T S Of L

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends the best in contemporary fiction and nonfiction—books that not only engage and entertain but also deepen our understanding of ourselves and the world around us.