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Hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as an ?International Book of the Year? on its publication in Britain, The Missing is a fascinating literary meditation on missing persons by the acclaimed young Scottish writer Andrew O?Hagan.
Writing with what one reviewer praised as ?passion, eloquence, and honesty,? O?Hagan explores one of society? most enduring, yet unexamined, concerns?missing persons. He writes movingly of his own grandfather, lost at sea during World War II; of ...
Hailed by the Times Literary Supplement as an “International Book of the Year” on its publication in Britain, The Missing is a fascinating literary meditation on missing persons by the acclaimed young Scottish writer Andrew O’Hagan.
Writing with what one reviewer praised as “passion, eloquence, and honesty,” O’Hagan explores one of society’ most enduring, yet unexamined, concerns—missing persons. He writes movingly of his own grandfather, lost at sea during World War II; of Sandy Davidson, the three-year-old who disappeared from a construction site near O’Hagan’s childhood home; of James Bulger, the toddler abducted from a mall in Liverpool and murdered by two ten-year-olds in 1993; and the twelve young women Fred and Rosemary West murdered and buried in their Gloucester backyard over a period of nearly thirty years.
In all of these cases, O’Hagan goes out with police and meets with social workers and families, always looking for the deeper truths so often left forgotten. What kind of lives did those who have gone missing lead? What made them disappear? What happens to those left behind?
Merging social history, memoir, and reportage, The Missing is one of those rare books that bring a neglected corner of human experience into the public eye, and a memorable debut from an exceptionally perceptive and talented new writer.
Scottish journalist O'Hagan explored the United Kingdom in search of stories of people who have vanished. He begins with his own grandfather, a sailor lost at sea, and continues the search through the ugly tenements where he grew up—and where several boys were lost. He interviews the families of these children, and their agony is horribly vivid. One father happened upon a look-alike of his missing son and almost begged the boy to move to his house and pretend to be his son. Other parents obsessively flip through photographs of their missing children, forever frozen in time at the age they were when taken. The police call the vanished "mispers," for missing persons, and are only now beginning to compile records on the subject. O'Hagan also visits a grim center for homeless teens, where the residents do their best to sever any remaining familial ties. He follows the trail of a number of lost girls to the home of Fred West, who killed at least 25 female boarders and buried them in his backyard. These stories are unrelenting, and O'Hagan presents solid insights into both the minds of the families and those of some who've deliberately disappeared. But the grisly litany would have been better served by the presence of real insight into why people vanish. He revisits the murder scene of James Bulger, a young boy killed by two 10-year-olds, and recounts episodes of his own cruelty, as a child, toward other children. But while O'Hagan raises the fascinating specter of child sadism, he doesn't speculate on its causes, quickly dropping the matter.
Though somewhat lacking in a sense of the big picture, this is a powerfully observed and often heartbreaking portrait in miniature of those who disappear and the effect on those they leave behind.