The Sweet Relief of Missing Children

( 9 )

Overview

"A magnificent debut filled with characters so vivid, strange, and richly imagined, you emerge feeling changed."?Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

In New York City, a girl called Leonora vanishes without a trace. Years earlier and miles upstate, Goldie, a wild, negligent mother, searches for a man to help raise her precocious son, Paul, who later discovers that the only way to save his soul is to run away. As the narrative moves back and forth in time, we find deeper interconnections ...

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The Sweet Relief of Missing Children: A Novel

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Overview

"A magnificent debut filled with characters so vivid, strange, and richly imagined, you emerge feeling changed."—Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

In New York City, a girl called Leonora vanishes without a trace. Years earlier and miles upstate, Goldie, a wild, negligent mother, searches for a man to help raise her precocious son, Paul, who later discovers that the only way to save his soul is to run away. As the narrative moves back and forth in time, we find deeper interconnections between these stories and growing clues about Leonora—this missing girl whose face looks out from telephone poles and billboards—whom one character will give anything to save.

The Sweet Relief of Missing Children is a suspenseful novel about the power of running and the desire for reinvention. It explores the terror and transcendence of our most central experiences: childhood, parenthood, sex, love.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
“Through random encounters and elliptical dialogue, Braunstein locates the pain in these people’s lives and makes it shimmer.”
Bonnie Jo Campbell
“The reader becomes a sort of watcher peering into a variety of small-town kitchens and bedrooms, and looking hard into hearts that have been broken or shaken loose.”
Library Journal
In her first novel, Braunstein, a recipient of the Rona Jaffe Writers' Award, gives us a complex and multifaceted study of children who conquer bad childhoods—and children who cannot. Leonora is a good girl from a good family; she's cautious, studious, and obedient. Her family had supplied a code word that any stranger must know before she follows him. Nevertheless, she agrees to help the wrong stranger, and soon her picture is appearing on posters with the word missing. As Leonora's story unfolds slowly but straightforwardly in intermittent chapters, a larger cast of characters is introduced, with the action occurring over decades. Children grow up, and adults flash back to their childhoods. An orphan marries early, hoping to reestablish himself in a nuclear family. A 16-year-old runs away from his mother's abusive new husband. Parents protect their own children while exploiting others, and the relationships among all these characters are slowly revealed. VERDICT Braunstein paints gorgeous portraits of a wide variety of characters, all fully realized. It's tough at times to tell who's who, and how they are related, but the reader's effort is rewarded. Highly recommended to readers of contemporary fiction. [See Prepub Alert, LJ 9/1/10.]—Debbie Bogenschutz, Cincinnati State Technical & Community Coll. Lib.
From the Publisher

"...a beautifully written novel...Braunstein and narrator Xe Sands make the stories and relationships easy to follow. Sands’s empathetic delivery makes this often disturbing work a pure joy...truly amazing." - AudioFile Magazine

"[Braunstein's] debut novel is an unsettling read that is also strangely compelling, though the author reserves all of her compassion for her characters, sparing none for her readers...Through random encounters and elliptical dialogue, Braunstein locates the pain in these people’s lives and makes it shimmer." - Booklist

"[a] powerful debut...Narrator Xe Sands gives an unemotional, staccato delivery, joining forces with the author to keep listeners intrigued and disquieted. Highly recommended for those who relish unpredictable, complex literature cut from a unique mold." - Library Journal

"an unflinching probe into the frailty of children's dreams and desires...a brave and daring book...highly original and a superb work of fiction." - The Portland Press Herald

"A novel you won’t want to put down. These are characters you won’t want to stop rooting for." - Newcity Lit

"The reader becomes a sort of watcher peering into a variety of small-town kitchens and bedrooms, and looking hard into hearts that have been broken or shaken loose." - Bonnie Jo Campbell, author of American Salvage

"A magnificent debut filled with characters so vivid, strange, and richly imagined, you emerge feeling changed." - Sarah Shun-lien Bynum

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393076592
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 2/28/2011
  • Pages: 363
  • Sales rank: 1,015,115
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.40 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah Braunstein

Sarah Braunstein is the recipient of the Rona Jaffe Writers' Award and was named one of the National Book Foundation's "5 Under 35." She received her MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop and lives in Portland, Maine.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3
( 9 )
Rating Distribution

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(4)

4 Star

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Sort by: Showing all of 9 Customer Reviews
  • Posted March 1, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    From the very first page, I was captivated.

    I want to be especially careful when describing this story to you because although the title does indicate that it's about a missing child, it's also about love and loss, what it means to be a parent, self-discovery and fear. Told through alternating viewpoints, the story is given to us in bits and pieces with each section beautifully detailed. In New York City, Leonora makes a dreadful mistake and ends up missing, without a trace. As she tells her story, the reader is made painfully aware that she realized her mistake rather quickly, yet there was no way to change her course once the mistake was made. Goldie is a single mom raising a young boy. She's desperate to find the perfect man. One who will hopefully help raise her son, Paul. Although her intentions are good, she is overridden by fear. Fear that her looks are going. Fear that she will never find the perfect man. Her desperation completely alienates her son which forces him to run away in order to save himself. Grace's life is not quite what she expected. Her daughter has run away without any explanation. Searching her room for details, it occurs to her that she doesn't really know who her daughter is. The realization of this forces her to recall a decision to made sixteen years ago. One in which she decided to keep her baby. Filled with "what ifs", Grace ponders the life she's been given. Connie is playing the role of housewife, but there is a little piece of her that wants to tempt fate. As she and her husband raise their nephew, she fantasizes about the boy and gets encouragement from the boy's dead mother, who appears to her when she needs a bit of guidance. The constant pull to do right, over wrong is what Connie obsesses over. Then, there's Tom. Tom has fantasies too, one of which involves peeping in on Goldie and her son, Paul. The Sweet Relief of Missing Children is a stunning example of why I love reading. The stories come together effortlessly and the prose is delicate and pure. I can't say enough about this book. This is Braunstein's first novel and all you probably need to know, is that once I finished it, I was tempted to turn to page one and start all over again. It has a slightly voyeuristic feel to it and once you start it, it's nearly impossible to put down. I recommend it highly and I'm adding it to my list of faves for 2011.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 12, 2011

    Aloha ha

    Great book with a hawian setting. Interesting and funny characters. Easy to follow with a wedding, a huge family, scandalious realationships, and is vanessa really go to leave her soulmate for a great bedmate? Cant wait to move on to the second.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 8, 2011

    loved it!

    Refreshing & different! I was intrigued by the title and happily surprised by the character development and interesting twists of the story. Can't wait for more from this author!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 28, 2011

    A huge let down!

    This book was all over the place, and the ending was disappointing. Waste of time...

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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    Posted August 23, 2011

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    Posted June 23, 2011

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    Posted March 26, 2012

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