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
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

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

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
BookBrowse Review Team

Buy This Book

About this Book

Print Excerpt


There is Jane, brown-eyed and cherubic, who in high school will cling to the balance beam with her toes, refusing to fall off. She succeeds by sheer force of will. It is Jane's hand-me-downs I wear and her bed I climb into during thunderstorms.

Then there is me. I take ballet lessons instead of piano, try out for plays instead of sports. I don't realize until later that I am the classic middle child, doing what I can to get attention. I am not as good as my older siblings and not as cute as the younger, so I strive mostly to be different.

Next is Patty, and then Amy, the baby, lanky and blue-eyed, the only one with mounds of curls, chasing after all of us, forever trying to keep up.


My father is proud of his family in a Catholic, fill-the-pew sort of way. His children sit in descending order, Steve in an ironed shirt and clip-on tie, the girls in poof-sleeved dresses, veils of lace bobby-pinned to our hair. My mother is proud, too. Straight-backed and beautiful, she holds Amy, always the baby. There we sit, our patent leathers swinging and sometimes kicking, as the priest walks down the aisle in his embroidered brocade, swinging his censer, the rich incense stinging our eyes.

Dad sells insurance for Metropolitan Life. Mom, a registered nurse, stays home with us kids, washing and folding, and carrying in bag after bag of groceries. For a while my Uncle Sandy lives in our basement, his bed and tin clothes cabinet separated off by curtains and a rug. On Sunday mornings we thunder down the stairs and jump on him as he tries to sleep off his Saturday night. He is our favorite uncle, mostly because he lives with us, but also because he has a magical way with broken-spoked bikes and skates without keys. He fixes Amy's favorite push toy without her even asking, though taking out the popping balls that make so much noise that his head hurts. When he is at work, up to his knuckles in the grease from someone's car, we jump on his bed and try to peek at the covers of the Playboys he has hidden on the top of his clothes cabinet, always straightening his blankets and pillow afterward, and giggling with guilt.

In the summer we barely clear our dinner dishes before disappearing down the block for our nightly games of Kick the Can and Capture the Flag, the older kids forced by parents to let us little ones play. In the winter we switch to King of the Mountain on the hard-packed snowbanks, or build igloos out of the chunks the snowplows leave on the curb.

The year I am in kindergarten the whole family climbs into the station wagon for the drive to Borgess Hill. It is the steepest and iciest in town, and we pile as many as we can fit onto the sled, me in front, Pat behind me, Jane behind her, and Uncle Sandy in the back. Steve runs behind, pushing, his boots churning on the snow, and then jumps on as we fly, the wind ripping screams from our mouths. Halfway down we tip, and the metal runner of the sled slices over my boot and breaks my ankle. For weeks Steve, four years older, has to drag me to school on the same sled, my cast in a plastic bread bag to keep it from getting wet. One day he stops at the top of a hill and gives the sled a shove, and I hurtle down the sidewalk, lugelike, between the snowbanks.

The year I am seven the snow is so deep that drivers put orange Styrofoam balls on the tips of their car antennas so they can see each other at intersections. We kids dig a tunnel from our house to the neighbors', then burrow back home for hot chocolate, our scarves and mittens dripping in the hall.

At Christmas we line up every year, oldest to youngest, Amy standing on tiptoe and still not reaching high enough to hang her stocking on the hooks that line the mantel. In the summers we pose again, draped on the sign of the year's campground or national park, our beagle Penny out front.

Don't you take the picture, Dad says to Mom. You always cut off everyone's head.

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 $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member
and discover your next great read!

Join Today!

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Opposite of Everyone
by Joshilyn Jackson

"Quirky and appealing characters, an engaging story, and honest dialogue make this a great book!"
- BookBrowse

About the book
Join the discussion!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    In the Country of Men
    by Hisham Matar
    Labeled by some as the "Libyan Kite Runner", In The Country of Men does share some ...
  • Book Jacket: Holding Up the Universe
    Holding Up the Universe
    by Jennifer Niven
    Jennifer Niven's spectacular Holding Up the Universe has everything that I love about Young ...
  • Book Jacket: Coffin Road
    Coffin Road
    by Peter May
    From its richly atmospheric opening to its dramatic conclusion, Peter May's Coffin Road is a ...

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Victoria
    by Daisy Goodwin

    Daisy Goodwin breathes new life into Victoria's story, and does so with sensitivity, verve, and wit." - Amanda Foreman

    Read Member Reviews

Win this book!
Win All the Gallant Men

All The Gallant Men

The first memoir by a USS Arizona survivor, 75 years after Pearl Harbor.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

K Y Eyes P

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 books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

 
X

Free Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with what's happening in the world of books:
Reviews, previews, interviews and more!



Spam Free: Your email is never shared with anyone; opt out any time.