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Songs for the Missing: A Novel [NOOK Book]

Overview

Returning again to the theme of working-class people and their wrenching concerns, Songs for the Missing begins with the suspenseful pace of a thriller, following an Ohio community's efforts to locate a young woman who has gone missing. It soon deepens into an affecting portrait of a family trying desperately to hold onto itself and the memory of a daughter whose return ...
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Songs for the Missing: A Novel

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Overview

Returning again to the theme of working-class people and their wrenching concerns, Songs for the Missing begins with the suspenseful pace of a thriller, following an Ohio community's efforts to locate a young woman who has gone missing. It soon deepens into an affecting portrait of a family trying desperately to hold onto itself and the memory of a daughter whose return becomes increasingly unlikely. Stark and honest, this is an intimate account of what happens behind the headlines of a very American tragedy.


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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

O'Nan proves that uncertainty can be the worst punishment of all in this unflinching look at an unraveling family. In the small town of Kingsville, Ohio, 18-year-old Kim Larsen-popular and bound for college in the fall-disappears on her way to work one afternoon. Not until the next morning do her parents, Ed and Fran, and 15-year-old sister, Lindsay, realize Kim is missing. The lead detective on the case tells the Larsens that since Kim is an adult, she could, if the police find her, ask that the police not disclose her location to her parents. When Kim's car later turns up in nearby Sandusky, Ed, desperate to help, joins the official search. Meanwhile, Fran stays home putting all her energy into community fund-raisers, and Lindsay struggles to maintain a normal life. Through shifting points of view, chiefly those of the shell-shocked parents and the moody Lindsay, O'Nan raises the suspense while conveying the sheer torture of what it's like not to know what has happened to a loved one. When-if ever-do you stop looking? 6-city author tour. (Nov.)

Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Library Journal

O'Nan (Last Night at the Lobster) here captures the emotional upheaval the disappearance of a young girl inflicts on her family and friends, writing with forceful clarity of their anxiety, mingled hope and fear, depression, anger, nostalgia, and sense of loss. Actress/singer/narrator Emily Janice Card (Special Topics in Calamity Physics) gives a fine performance; her delivery of the teenage dialog is especially successful. Recommended for all audio collections. [Audio clip available through us.penguingroup.com; the Viking hc was recommended "for most public libraries," LJ8/08.-Ed.]
—Joanna M. Burkhardt

Kirkus Reviews
Taut prose and matter-of-fact detail enrich this compelling portrait of teenage life in small-town Ohio, as the disappearance of a popular girl on the cusp of leaving home for college changes the communal dynamic of family and friends. The latest from O'Nan (Last Night at the Lobster, 2007, etc.) initially reads like a whodunit, but who or why become less important than the character of the vanished Kim Larsen from the differing memories of those who knew her best-or thought they did-and the ways in which Kim's disappearance allows all sorts of revelations to come to light. The opening chapter is the only one that views Kim's life from her own perspective: the job she tolerates, the little sister who occasionally annoys her, the parents whose tension between them sometimes rises to the surface, the friends with whom she shares routines and some confidences, the boyfriend with whom she isn't serious enough to stay with past the summer. She anticipates college as an escape from the town where "every night they fought a war against boredom and lost," yet she's understandably apprehensive about living away from home. Then she disappears, putting her parents into a panic, forcing her friends to decide which secrets to reveal, uniting the community in its attempts to aid the search and offer support to the family. Will Kim's disappearance end her parents' marriage or make it stronger? Is there a logical explanation, a motive, or is this simply evidence of "the world's incoherence"? Though the author sustains narrative momentum through the conventions of the police procedural (with chapter headings such as "Description of the Person, When Last Seen" and "Known Whereabouts"), ultimately the novelis less about a possible crime than about the interconnections of small-town life. "The problem was that everything was connected," thinks one of Kim's friends. "One lie covered another, which covered a third, which rested against a fourth. It all went back to Kingsville being so goddamn small."A novel in which every word rings true. Agent: David Gernert/The Gernert Company
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781440635229
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 10/30/2008
  • Sold by: Penguin Group
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 304
  • Sales rank: 690,578
  • File size: 840 KB

Meet the Author

Stewart O'Nan
Stewart O’Nan has published nine previous novels that include The Good Wife, Everyday People, and A Prayer for the Dying, a book of short stories In the Walled City, and four works of non-fiction that include the bestselling book he co-authored with Stephen King about the Red Sox Faithful. O’Nan’s novel Snow Angels has been made into a movie by Warner Independent starring Kate Beckinsale and was released in March of 2008. He is a huge Red Sox and Pirates fan and lives in Avon, CT with his wife.

Biography

Stewart O'Nan grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, addicted to cartoons, horror comics, Tarzan, science fiction, movies, TV, and garage punk. He studied aerospace engineering at Boston University, where he developed more rarified tastes (Camus, Coltrane, and the Beats), along with a lifelong obsession with the Boston Red Sox. After graduation, he worked as a test engineer for Grumman Aerospace in Long Island, devoting every spare moment he could find to writing. Then, with the encouragement of his wife, he enrolled in Cornell University to pursue a master's degree.

By the time O'Nan had finished graduate school, a few of his short stories had begun to attract some attention. He moved his family west and taught at the University of Central Oklahoma and the University of New Mexico. Then, in 1993, he hit pay dirt when his short story collection, In the Walled City, won the Drue Heinz Prize for Short Fiction. A year later, his first novel, Snow Angels, was awarded a Pirate's Alley William Faulkner Prize. Since then, he has gone on to forge a distinguished literary career. A self-described "fiction-writing machine," the multi-award-winning O'Nan averages a book a year. In 1996, Granta named him one of the Twenty Best Young American Novelists.

Although critics try to shoehorn his fiction into the horror genre, O'Nan's writing is far too complex and nuanced to permit such blatant categorization. True, his stories are suffused with trauma and tragedy, and his characters react unpredictably to the stress of terrible events; but the violence in O'Nan's fiction owes as much to Flannery O'Connor as to Stephen King -- two authors he acknowledges as important influences.

In addition to his novels, the prolific O'Nan has written a nonfiction account of the notorious 1944 Hartford Circus Fire. He is also co-author with fellow Bo-Sox fan Stephen King of Faithful, a chronicle of the team's legendary 2004 season.

Good To Know

In our exclusive interview, Stewart O'Nan shared some fun and fascinating facts about himself:

"Growing up, I delivered the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette to David McCullough's, Annie Dillard's and Nathaniel Philbrick's houses. The Philbricks tipped you a dime to put it in their screen door."

"The first novels I read with rapt fascination were Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan series -- coverless, bought for a dime apiece at a Cub Scout rummage sale."

"Back in the early '80s, when I'd just begun to read seriously, I met Doris Lessing at the Kenmore Square Barnes & Noble before her very first game at Fenway Park. She seemed genuinely excited, and apprehensive, as if she might be asked to play."

"The library is still my favorite place in the world."

"I'd rather be reading than doing anything else, including writing."

"I'm an obsessive collector -- coins, books, records, baseball cards."

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    1. Also Known As:
      James Coltrane
    2. Hometown:
      Avon, CT
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 4, 1961
    2. Place of Birth:
      Pittsburgh, PA
    1. Education:
      B.S., Aerospace Engineering, Boston University, 1983; M.F.A., Cornell University, 1992
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One: Description of the Person, When Last Seen

July, 2005. It was the summer of her Chevette, of J.P. and letting her hair grow. The last summer, the best summer, the summer they’d dreamed of since eighth grade, the high and pride of being seniors lingering, an extension of their best year. She and Nina and Elise, the Three Amigos. In the fall they were gone, off to college, where she hoped, by a long and steady effort, she might become someone else, a private, independent person, someone not from Kingsville at all.

The sins of the Midwest: flatness, emptiness, a necessary acceptance of the familiar. Where is the romance in being buried alive? In growing old?

She did not hate the town, as, years later, her sister would tell one lover. Not Kim, not the good daughter. She loved the lake, how on a clear day you could see all the way to Canada from the bluffs. She loved the river, winding hidden in its mossy gorge of shale down to the harbor. She even loved the slumping Victorian mansions along Grandview her father was always trying to sell, and the sandstone churches downtown, and the stainless steel diner across from the post office. She was just eighteen.

At the Conoco, on break, she liked to cross the lot and then the onramp and stand at the low rail of the overpass, French-inhaling menthols in the dark as traffic whipped past below, taillights shooting west into the future. Toledo was three hours away, on the far side of Cleveland, far enough to be another country. Trucks lit like spaceships shuddered under her feet, dragging their own hot wind, their trailers full of unknown cargo. Slowly, night by night, the dream of leaving was coming true -- with her family’s blessing, their very highest hopes. She could not regret it. She could only be grateful.

Inside, the a/c was cranked so high she wore a T-shirt under her uniform. They poached old nametags they found in the junk drawer under the register. She was Angie, Nina was Sam. They spun on their stools and watched the monitors, punching in the pump numbers and making change. They read heavy, insane fashion magazines and called around to see what was going on later -- even though they were on camera too -- and fought over whose turn it was to refill the nacho pot. Her timecard was in its slot, the clock beside it chunking with every minute, a record of her steadiness. She’d worked seven days a week since graduation and hadn’t missed a shift. Later the police would call this strict pattern a contributing factor. Secretly she was proud of it. She’d never been so determined. She’d never had a reason before.

Reprinted by arrangement with Viking, a member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., from Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan. Copyright (c) 2008 by Jeff Gordinier.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 127 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(30)

4 Star

(42)

3 Star

(33)

2 Star

(20)

1 Star

(2)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 127 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 17, 2008

    Family coming to grips with a tragic reality

    I enjoyed Mr. O'Nan's writing style. The book flowed for me. Not so much a story of a missing person (as I had expected), but more a story of a family dealing with a tragic event... day by day, month by month, year by year. Since reading this book, every time I have seen a missing child story, I feel an immediate connection with what the family is going through.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 5, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Songs For the Missing

    This is Stewart's 12 fiction book. This is my first time reading Stewart O'Nan's work. I throughly enjoyed the book and I am looking forward to reading his other books.<BR/><BR/>The books is about the Larsen family, the friends and a small town community dealing with the disappereance of the Larsen's 18 year old daughter Kim. Kim is a popular and happy go lucky kind of girl. She is a recent high school graduate who is leaving in a few weeks to go to college in the midwest. Kim disappears on her way to work one evening without a trace. There is very little to go on and nothing turns up.<BR/><BR/>The family is doing everything in their power to find Kim. Fran is doing media, handing out buttons, passing out flyers and seeks out donations to help in the search for her daughter. Ed is getting people involved in search parties. Finally with no leads or nothing to go on the media is no longer interested and the family is having to deal with their loss of Kim not returning home. The family continues to search and keep their hopes alive that they will find her. <BR/><BR/>Will their efforts pay off?

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 16, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    LOVED!

    Ok...So I couldn't let this book have only 2 stars. It is excellent. Now it is not a epic who done it. It is a simple story with characters who aren't constantly crying. They are coping.

    It is subtle...and extremely well-written. I cared about these characters.

    Read this book with an open mind...It is a solid read!!

    Thanks!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2008

    Eeeehh

    The beginning of the book is good, but O'Nan forgets about Kim and throws us into the life of the family and friends of Kim. Honestly, the book was not for me, but it could be for other people with a different taste. The author writes wonderfuly, but in some parts of the book, like the fishing and about Nina and J.P. reuniting, really did not matter, and did not add anything to the story. I was dissapointed in the end, but also glad that Kim's sister was finaly able to blend into a crowd and become unnoticed after all of that time being the center of attention for the family, town, and meeting.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 25, 2008

    Songs for the Missing

    Songs for the Missing is not the story of Kim Larsen, recent graduate bound for college. Even though the story opens in her viewpoint, she¿ll soon be silenced. And all that will be left behind is her memory. Her parents, sister, boyfriend, friends and community will begin a massive search for her. It¿s their songs Stewart O¿Nan wants us to hear. Her mother and father will struggle and falter for a time before they grow into advocates. Her boyfriend will wrestle with guilt and her friends will worry about saving themselves. Her sister will grow from a fifteen year old in the shadow of her older sister to a young woman forever transformed by the time her sister was missing. This reviewer¿s not read any other Stewart O¿Nan novels, but will surely be looking to read a few more. The thing Mr. O¿Nan does best is tell the story in a matter-of-fact tone that is both tight and unsentimental. This is a rare skill for today¿s novelists one I truly appreciate. The story takes place over a number of years, but the passage of time passes effortlessly for the reader. Because it is so tight, I suspect that some will feel that it lacked something in depth, a fair argument. Songs for the Missing is a character driven, slow plotted story. The narrative is propelled by the voices Kim left behind, not by their actions. Like the story itself, the ending is abrupt and unyielding, a good match for the tone of most of the novel. When my own children were young, I avoided all books on this topic in fear of making the thought real. It seems, when we imagine this horror, that we would never survive, but what Songs for the Missing does best is to show us the everyday lives of a family taking each step in that horror filled world. Recommended for readers who enjoy slower paced, character driven stories or readers who have a special interest in missing persons, or readers who enjoy stories examining family/community relationships.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2008

    Songs for the Missing

    i had been longing to read one of stewart o'nan's books for a long time...he's a friend of stephen king and i had always heard good things about his books. i'm so glad i was chosen to read Songs for the Missing as part of the Barnes and Noble First Look Book Club. this book was wonderful. i tend to lean toward mysteries and thrillers and historial fiction, or the latest best seller, not all of which lend themselves to great writing. while the subject matter of Songs was depressing and sad and quietly devastating, i couldn't put it down. i felt as if i knew the characters, like they were actual people, and i found myself thinking about them when i wasn't reading, and after i finished the book. i totally 'got' what they were experiencing - i almost felt as though i was experiencing the loss of someone close to me. i thought o'nan handled each of the characters perfectly, male and female...from the parents, to kim's kid sister, to her friends...how they felt guilty for some of their thoughts or how they handled themselves in this horrible situation. i suspect Songs will stay with me for a long time, and i am looking forward to reading more of o'nan's fiction. he's a wonderful, true writer. this book IS a song.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 20, 2011

    Loved this one!

    This book was really a great one -- it kept you engrossed from the beginning and I could barely put it down.
    I have read other Steward O'Nan books -- and this one was one of the best.

    Highly recommend this one

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  • Posted June 21, 2010

    I Also Recommend:

    O'Nan is a master

    Being familiar with O'Nan's honest and subdued writing style, I read Songs for the Missing with his mastery in mind. I was not disappointed. This is not a book filled with cheap gimmicks and emotional schlock. It is an honest portrait of loss and love and a family's desperate and often divergent attempts to reconcile the inconceivable. O'Nan, as evidenced in many of his works, is a master at the slow burn and he evokes such emotion with the gentlest of tugs here that he had me turning pages at a steady pace. An excellent book by one of today's best authors no one is talking about.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 9, 2009

    Okay, but not what I expected

    I was hoping for so much more from this book. It was an okay read but check it out at the library instead of spending money on it.

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  • Posted October 3, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    Rapaciously cold

    The idea of Songs for the Missing is a necessary tale for all. However, this telling takes cliches in the youth of America and bashes the delicacy of suffering with a two by four. The idea that a younger sister would have such a self-absorbed reality in the face of such a great loss leaves you with an emptiness that surpasses the loss of her sister, the loss of life. Beneath the desire to leave her childhood and enter into her own "self", there was the true tale to be told. It was not. The profound mirror that could have been exposed by this tale was smashed as a nightmare in so many pieces. The idea that we, the readers, would feel satisfied with a young girl emblazoning her future with the criminally obtuse and cruel outlook of a sociopath, in the face of her sisters death defies logic. We live in a world where such losses cause the tradjectory of our lives to continue the destruction path likened to a tornado. Unless we find the rays of truth and effort that can cure our broken hearts. This was the tale needed to be told and was not. An opportunity was lost here. The parents, not allowed to cry or spew the anger of such horror leaves one feeling the same stiffling that comes to us all in our childhood scars. I suggest to anyone considering this read, save you breath!!! You will feel the helplessness of a neon having jumped from an aquariam as you find yourself losing your breath in the repressed suffering that arises from this pathetic book. It was as cold and stinking and empty as the bones found at the end of the book.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 30, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Good For Those Interested In The Subject

    An excerpt of my First Look review, full review originally published and copyrighted on my website - www.randomwonder.com:

    Songs for the Missing is not the story of Kim Larsen, recent graduate bound for college. Even though the story opens in her viewpoint, she'll soon be silenced. And all that will be left behind is her memory. Her parents, sister, boyfriend, friends and community will begin a massive search for her. It's their songs Stewart O'Nan wants us to hear..... This reviewer's not read any other Stewart O'Nan novels, but will surely be looking to read a few more. The thing Mr. O'Nan does best is tell the story in a matter-of-fact tone that is both tight and unsentimental. This is a rare skill for today's novelists; one I truly appreciate.......

    Really a 3.5

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted March 9, 2009

    Family in crisis

    Great book about what happens to a family when a child goes missing.

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  • Posted March 4, 2009

    A great read

    Sad but wonderfully written. I could relate to the characters and the emotions that they were feeling.

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  • Posted February 23, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Mind-opening about facing a tragedy...

    This book is very easy to read and holds your attention to the end. It gives the reader other perspectives of people dealing with uncertainty, change, tragedy, and loss.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted February 23, 2009

    Coping with loss

    During the summer following her high school graduation, Kim Larsen is working at the Conoco by the freeway. Sometimes she stands on the overpass and watches the cars bound for Cleveland, Toledo and beyond. After work, she and her friends go to the beach to talk and drink beer. Then Kim goes missing.
    Stewart O'Nan writes quietly, pulling the reader into the thoughts and emotions of Kim's family and friends. While the search for Kim goes on, those close to her try to cope, and that is the focus of the novel. Kim's disappearance causes strains in her family and between her family and her friends. This is not a police procedural nor a novel of suspense. But the suspense is there even as O'Nan writes of the efforts of those who knew Kim best to make sense of the situation, to go on despite the uncertainty of Kim's fate.
    Kim and her family live in Kingsville, Ohio, a small town on Lake Erie not far from the Pennsylvania line. O'Nan is obviously familiar with the area, and the book is full of local references. When Kim's mother says she's surprised the Star Beacon hasn't called about a possible, Kim"s father tells her she has too confidence in the paper. The Star Beacon is a real paper, and the feelings expressed by Mr. Larsen are common in Ashtabula County.
    O'Nan makes us care, and he does it without cheap tricks and gore. The characters in this novel stay with you long after you put the book down.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 17, 2009

    Once I opened this book- I could not put it down.

    The book captured me right away and kept me all the way to the end.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 8, 2009

    anti-climactic

    Started strong, but got very, very slow. Disappointing ending. Hardly any sense of closure. The only reason I kept reading was to find out what happened to Kim, but in the end even that isn't explained very well...

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  • Posted December 30, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    Agonizing

    This book is mesmerizing start to finish. However it is not a relaxing read. You are sitting on the edge of your seat and hoping against hope that the end will be different. The mother character is brittle and unlikable, reminds me of the mother in Ordinary People. She creates a shell around herself to protect her from her own feelings. The Dad is a likable loser, you feel his pain radiate from the pages. The big story in the book is that of the younger sister. Her heartbreaking reaction to being thrust into a situation that no one should have to deal with.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2008

    Songs for the Missing

    Great book, sad content. I recommend this book to all my fellow readers.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 23, 2008

    Songs for the Missing

    I loved this book and found it difficult to put down. The story revolves around the family and friends of Kim Larson, a teenager who suddenly goes missing. Those close to Kim handle the situation in different ways from physically searching, getting involved with media events and withdrawing into themselves. Even though the book is not told as emotionally as many other books covering the same subject matter, I felt very involved in the story. I really cared about the characters and the outcome. Stewart O'Nan writes in a stark style, but I felt like I was right there with the family. I think Mr. O'Nan has become one of my favorite writers.

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