The Barnes & Noble Review
In this highly anticipated novel, John Searles, senior books editor at Cosmopolitan, delivers a riveting page-turner loosely based on the true-life story of Gerri Santoro, whose tragic death in 1964 following a botched motel room abortion became the rallying point for the explosive pro-choice movement of the 1960s. Dripping with all-American symbolism, the gritty characters in Boy Still Missing bring to life the explosive issues of that chaotic decade through the lens of a camera sharply focused on one dysfunctional family.
In the desolate blue-collar town of Holedo, Massachusetts, Dominick Pindle spends his free time in one of two ways: obsessing on his newfound desire for girls or searching the local pubs for his alcoholic father. Dominick's mother -- his protector and angel - has set her attention solely on him and turned a blind eye to the more serious problems that exist with her husband. But after some conspicuously bad moves in his quest to make sense of life, the boy finds himself embroiled in a lustful game of "bait and switch" with Edie, his father's seductive mistress, keeping Dad's affair a secret from Mom.
Edie is an alluring and bruised older woman who seduces Dominick and uses him to escape Holedo. However, when their clandestine affair leads to a fatal accident, Dominick realizes that the parent he deceived has also concealed family secrets as passionate and destructive as his own. The realization that this knowledge could hold the key to his future, combined with the guilt that haunts him for betraying his mother, sends him on a mission for the truth. Dominick flees to New York, only to find more revelations about his family's shocking past. But the same reckless impulse that sends him searching for freedom may destroy him in the end. In fact, the only person who may be able to save him is Jeanny, a former hippie with powerful political ideas, who comes to care deeply for the troubled teen, acting as both lover and guardian.
Boy Still Missing is a compulsively readable novel that slyly opens the door on the consequences of poor judgment. Combining pathos, tragedy, and love, Searles suggests that fate can indeed herald peace of mind, despite our persistent efforts to find it on our own. Boy Still Missing announces the arrival of a major new voice on the stage of American literature and introduces an unforgettable new hero in Dominick, the troubled teen who may just be destined to stand alongside such legendary forebears as Holden Caulfield and Huckleberry Finn. (Lauren Foster)
This debut novel is totally gripping.
At the age of fifteen, Dominick Pindle can't decide whether to trust fate or blame chance. All he knows is that life has dealt him a horrible hand. His drunken father's affair was bad enough, but once the betrayed mistress turns her attentions to Dominick, he understands that a schoolboy's fantasies have little in common with the complications of real sex. Dominick also stumbles upon his mother's own dark secrets; "One day you could make a choice that seemed like a good one in the moment, only to end up careening down a dark road you never intended to take," he observes. For all of this first novel's urgency, it sometimes seems as if the author, like his protagonist, has involved himself with more than he can handle, overloading the plot with coincidence, contrivance, parallels and premonitions. Though he adeptly evokes the yearnings of adolescence, some of Searles' affectations confuse the narrative voice. In passages such as "a red maple shimmied like a cheerleader's bushy pom-pom against the black sky," one suspects that Dominick wouldn't be nearly as likely to reach for these similes as the author would.
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
"If only I could have stopped the most important person in my life from dying... alone." This much-anticipated first novel from Searles (book editor at Cosmopolitan) is a vivid blue-collar coming-of-age story with more than the usual supply of plot twists: abductions, abortion, adoption, alcoholism, media frenzies and extramarital affairs contribute first vim, then tragedy, to the 16th year in the life of Dominick Pindle. Searles's tale opens in 1971, in a "desolate, middle-of-nowhere" New England town, where narrator Dominick and his determinedly sunny mother spend Saturday nights trawling bars in search of his wayward father. When Dominick spots his dad's truck outside sexy divorc e Edie Kramer's house, it's the start of a fateful relationship. Edie is pregnant by Dominick's father, who's no longer seeing her; hurting for money, Edie convinces Dominick to steal his mother's hidden cash and give it to her. But Dominick's mom is also secretly pregnant (by the town sheriff). Without the money she had salted away, she can't afford a safe illegal abortion and bleeds to death in a motel room after trying to terminate her pregnancy herself. The next day, Dominick leaves for New York City in search of facts about his mother and his mysterious half-brother. After a number of hairpin turns, intrigue and reconciliations, the book's climactic section finds Dominick and his new girlfriend Jeanny holed up in a motel room with Edie's baby in a desperate attempt to get the media to investigate his mother's death. Like Russell Banks, Searles combines a rapid and intricate plot with major social concerns. Some readers will find Searles heavy-handed in his depiction of the pre-Roe politics of abortion; many more, though, will find his story of hard choices, bleak times and unwilling kidnappers captivating indeed. (Mar.) Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
In his first novel, an overly complicated coming-of-age story, Searles, the senior books editor at Cosmopolitan, has studded his plot with all the issues the market might be expected to bear: adultery, abortion, abduction, adoption, and alcoholism. In 1971, 15-year-old Dominick Pindle and his mother search the bars of their working-class Massachusetts town for Dominick's father, whose drinking and womanizing are legendary. When Dominick falls in love with his father's sexy (and pregnant) girlfriend, Edie, he steals the money his mother has been saving to buy a house in order to help Edie out. Meanwhile, Dominick's mother, who is also pregnant, dies alone in a motel room while trying to give herself an abortion. Dominick becomes determined to track down Edie (who has moved to New York) and also to discover the truth about his mother's past. The book ends as it begins, in a flurry of unconvincing events, with Dominick; his girlfriend, Jenny; and Edie's baby daughter Sophie locked in a motel room, trying to get the media to investigate his mother's death. Perfectly appropriate for larger fiction collections in public libraries but nothing special. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 11/1/00.] Nancy Pearl, Washington Ctr. for the Book, Seattle Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Read an Excerpt
Boy Still Missing
Whenever my father disappeared, we looked for him on Hanover Street. My mother drove us slowly along in our orange Pinto, gazing into shadowy windows. Between the rows of smoky bars glowing with Schlitz and Budweiser signs were slim alleyways where he parked his fender-dented GMC. My mother's best friend, Marnie, sat in the passenger seat, and I squeezed in the back. Marnie's job was to keep an eye out for my father's truck, but she spent most of the time applying foundation, darkening her lashes, and glossing her thin lips in the visor mirror. Marnie had recently read somewhere that all men were intrigued by Southern women, so she adopted the appropriate lingo. Besides the occasional "y'all" and "yahoo," it meant a lot of nicknames. Peaches. Honey pie. Cupcake. At fifteen I considered myself practically a man, and the sound of all that food coming from her mouth did nothing but make me hungry.
Tonight Marnie was in the middle of plucking her eyebrows when she said, "Is that his truck, Peaches?"
"Where?" I said, sticking my head between them. I loved being part of Find-Father-First, and when she spotted his truck, it pissed me off, because I felt I had lost somehow.
"There," Marnie said, tapping her nail against the windshield. "There's the bastard."
I scanned the narrow parking lot. Datsun. Ford. Plymouth. Ford. GMC. My heart banged away, thinking of what usually came next. My mother hated bars and would almost always send me inside to nab my father. "A person could waste a whole life in one of those places," she liked to say.
For me there was nothing better than stepping inside the crowded brick cavesthe smells of wet wood, stale beer, and smoke forever mingling in the air. I loved being surrounded by the cracking of pool balls, women with tight jeans and cigarette voices. They were so opposite from my mother with her smooth, young skin, flowery blouses and chinos, timid movements and soft hum of a voice. My mother had the air of a churchgoer, even though she never went to church. She was Sunday afternoon, and those women were Saturday night. Whenever my father saw me, he would pat his heavy hand on my shoulder and introduce me to all his pals. My father was like a movie star inside a bar, probably because he wasn't bald or potbellied or sloppy like the rest of the guys. He had straight teeth and a wave of dark hair, muscles and a flat stomach. He wore the same rugged denim jacket all year long and held his cigarette like a joint. While he paid his tab, I'd grab a fistful of straws so Leon Diesel and I could twist and snap them at the bus stop in the morning. Some nights I'd shove my sweatshirt pockets full of maraschino cherries and a couple green olives for Marnie. The neon fruit stained my hands and the inside of my pockets a strange artificial red that never completely came out in the wash.
The thought of the whole routine made me smile when my mother signaled and braked. We all squinted at the truck parked between Maloney's Pub and the Dew Drop Inn. Even in the summer, faded garland Christmas bells and angels dangled from the wires that hung between buildings and across Hanover Street. Every December the Holedo town maintenance crews put up new decorations, only to let the weather slowly take them down the rest of the year. Under the wiry remains of a golden bell sat the truck Marnie had spotted. Red and silver. Snow chains on the tires even though it was June. "No," my mother said in the softer-timbre voice she used for disappointment. "Roy's truck has that dent in the fender. And he took his chains off last March."
"Honey," Marnie said, "that man took his chains off long before that."
My mother glanced in the side-view mirror and pulled back onto the street, not laughing at the joke.
"Get it?" Marnie said. "Ball and chain."
Neither of us smiled. After all, none of this was funny. For the last two days my father had been on what we called a "big bender." It meant he left for work on Wednesday morning and hadn't been seen since.
I took the opportunity to dig at Marnie for picking out the wrong truck. "Those weren't even Massachusetts plates." My voice cracked a bit, which took away from the slight. I had the froggiest voice of any guy my age and was glad the magic of my long-awaited puberty was finally beginning to deepen it. Marnie looked at me and shrugged like she didn't care. But we both knew she had lost a point or two in the game.
She went back to her eyebrows, and I tried not to be distracted as she plucked. Hair after hair. Hair after hair. She was one of those women who had great faith in the transformative powers of makeup and jewelry. Marnie was so different from my mother, who kept her thick, soot-colored hair in a neat little headband. My mother had tattoo-green eyes and a smile that didn't call for lipstick or gloss. On her ring finger she wore a tiny silver band with a diamond, no bigger than a baby's pinkie nail.
We rolled to the end of Hanover Street, where the entrance ramp led to the highway out of Holedo. The bar lights blurred behind us, and my mother started checking and rechecking her watch, probably realizing how long we'd been searching. I stared out the window at a row of gray apartment complexes, an auto body shop with a half dozen mangled vehicles in the lot, the steady row of streetlamps that cast white light and shifting shadows inside our car as we moved... Boy Still Missing
. Copyright © by John Searles. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.