Missing Pieces

Missing Pieces

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780440222873
Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
Publication date: 07/28/1998
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 432
Sales rank: 371,436
Product dimensions: 4.25(w) x 6.84(h) x 1.07(d)

About the Author

Joy Fielding is the author of Don't Cry Now, Tell Me No Secrets, See Jane Run, Good Intentions, The Deep End, Life Penalty, The Other Woman, Kiss Mommy Goodbye, Trance, The Transformation, and The Best of Friends.  A graduate of the University of Toronto, she lives with her family in Toronto and Palm Beach.

Read an Excerpt

Another woman is missing.

Her name is Millie Potton and she was last seen two days ago.  According to today's paper, Millie is tall and thin and walks with a slight limp.  She is fifty-four years old, which isn't surprising.  Only women over fifty have names like Millie anymore.

The small article on page three of the local news section of the Palm Beach Post states that she was last seen wandering down the street in her bathrobe by a neighbor, a woman who obviously saw nothing particularly peculiar in the incident.  Millie Potton, the article continues, has a long history of mental problems, the implication being that it is these mental problems that are responsible for her disappearance and are not therefore anything the rest of us have to be concerned about.

Over two dozen women have disappeared from the Palm Beach area in the last five years.  I know because I've been keeping track, not consciously, at least not at first, but after a while their numbers just started adding up, and a vague figure affixed itself to my conscious mind.  The women range in age from sixteen to sixty.  The police have dismissed some as runaways, especially the younger ones, girls like Amy Lokash, age seventeen, who left a friend's house at ten o'clock one evening and was never seen or heard from again.  Others, and Millie Potton will undoubtedly be among them, have been dismissed for any number of indisputably logical reasons, even though the police were wrong about Amy Lokash.

Still, until a body turns up somewhere, stuffed into a garbage bin behind Burger King like Marilyn Greenwood, age twenty-four, or floating facedown in a Port Everglades swamp like Christine McDermott, age thirty-three, there really isn't anything the police can do.  Or so they say.  Women, it seems, go missing all the time.

It's quiet in the house this morning, what with everybody gone.  I have lots of time to tape my report.  I call it a report, but really it isn't anything so clearly defined.  It's more a series of reminiscences, although the police have asked me to be as specific and as orderly as I can, to be careful not to leave anything out, no matter how insignificant--or how personal--something may seem.  They will decide what is important, they tell me.

I'm not sure I understand the point.  What's done is done.  It's not as if I can go back and change any of the things that have happened, much as I'd like to, much as I tried to before they occurred.  But I was just hitting my head against a brick wall.  I knew it at the time.  I know it now.  There are certain things over which we have no control--the actions of others being the prime example.  Much as we may not like it, we have to stand back and let people go their own way, make their own mistakes, no matter how clearly we see disaster looming.  Isn't that what I'm always telling my clients?

Of course, it's much easier to give advice than it is to follow it.  Maybe that's one of the reasons I became a family therapist, although that certainly wasn't the reason I gave on my college entry application.  There, if memory serves me correctly, and it does so with alarmingly less frequency all the time, I listed my intense desire to help others, my reputation among friends as someone to whom they could always turn in times of trouble, my experience with my own dysfunctional family, although the term "dysfunctional" had yet to be coined at the time I entered university way back in 1966.  It's so common now, so much a part of the everyday vernacular, that it's hard to imagine how we managed for so long without it, despite the fact that it's essentially meaningless.  What constitutes dysfunction, after all?  What family doesn't have problems?  I'm certain my own daughters could give you an earful.

So, where to start?  This is what my first-time clients ask all the time.  They come into my office, which is on the third floor of a five-story Pepto-Bismol pink building on Royal Palm Way, their eyes wary, the fingers of one hand chipping at the wedding band on the other, as they perch on the ends of the upholstered gray-and-white chairs, their lips parting in anticipation, their mouths eager to give voice to their rage, their fears, their displeasure, and the first thing that tumbles out is always the same: Where do I start?

Do I start at the very beginning, announce myself like a label stuck to a lapel: Hello, my name is Kate Sinclair?  Do I say that I was born forty-seven years ago in Pittsburgh on an uncharacteristically warm day in April, that I'm five feet six and a half inches tall and one hundred and twenty-five pounds, that my hair is light brown and my eyes a shade darker, that I have small breasts and good legs and a slightly lopsided smile?  That Larry affectionately calls me funny face, that Robert said I was beautiful?

It would be much easier to start at the end, to recite facts already known, give name to the dead, wipe away the blood once and for all, instead of trying to search for motivations, for explanations, for answers that might never be found.

But the police don't want that.  They already know the basic facts.  They've seen the end results.  What they want are details, and I've agreed, as best I can, to provide them.  I could start with Amy Lokash's disappearance, or the first time her mother came to my office.  I could begin with my mother's fears she was being followed, or with the day Sara's teacher called to voice her growing concerns about my daughter's behavior.  I could talk about that first phone call from Robert, or Larry's sudden trip to South Carolina.  But I guess if I have to choose one moment over all the others, it would have to be that Saturday morning last October when Jo Lynn and I were sitting at the kitchen table, relaxing and enjoying our third cup of coffee, and my sister put down the morning paper and calmly announced that she was going to marry a man who was on trial for the murder of thirteen women.

Yes, I think I'll start there.

Reading Group Guide

1. The School Library Review describes Missing Pieces as a “novelistic version of Ten Stupidest Things That Women Do To Mess Up Their Lives. Do you agree? Why or why not?

2. Why is Jo Lynn hell-bent on marrying Colin Friendly? “Publicity, loneliness, a martyr complex” are reasons offered by the psychologists commenting on the case. What’s your theory?

3. Why is Kate drawn to Robert, a man she doesn’t particularly like?

4. As a parent – or as someone who was once a teenager – do you identify more with Sara or Michelle? Do you think Kate plays favourites? If so, do you blame her?

5. Does Colin Friendly share any traits in common with other Fielding villains, say, Ralph Fisher in Mad River Road or the killer in Whisper and Lies or Heartstopper?

6. The novel is written in the first person, past tense, except for the first chapter, which uses the present tense. Why, dramatically speaking, does the author use the present tense in the first chapter? Why does the first-person perspective suit the story as a whole? How would the novel be different if Fielding had used the third-person perspective instead?

7. Kate is a therapist who doesn’t always deal very well with the problems in her own family. How are her familial relations similar to or different from those in other Fielding novels, e.g., Heartstopper or Mad River Road?


On Friday, September 5th, barnesandnoble.com welcomed Joy Fielding to discuss MISSING PIECES.

Moderator: Welcome, Ms. Fielding, and thanks for joining us this evening!

Joy Fielding: Thank you for having me!

Irene from Hackensack, NJ: Is it fair to just play on people's fears and use them as fodder for your fictions?

Joy Fielding: Well, I think anything is fair in fiction. Generally, I'm exploiting my own fears as much as anyone else's. When I start a book, I always ask myself what my concerns are at the moment, and that's what I choose to write about. But I think any subject is fair to write about when it comes to writing.

William R. Hundley from Detroit: Ms. Fielding, my wife likes to read your books. I was wondering about this: They all seem to be about women who are exposed to frightening scenarios out of their control. I think that they portray women as vulnerable and helpless. My wife disagrees with me. What am I supposed to make of this debate?

Joy Fielding: Well, I agree with your wife. I don't think the women are victims; I think most of them are strong women who find themselves in difficult situations where they have to test their mettle, and they emerge from these situations even stronger. I think the important message in all the books is that the women ultimately find the solutions and save themselves. They don't wait to be saved. They don't succumb to circumstances, they fight against them, and they succeed. So I think your wife probably enjoys the vicarious thrill of being in danger, yet knowing that ultimately the women find their own solutions and emerge with a clearer sense of who they are.

Wilma Rockstar from Nebraska: What does Joy Fielding do when she is not writing?

Joy Fielding: I play golf badly (especially today)! I play bridge. I travel a great deal. I read. I exercise. I swim. I look after my toy poodle, Casey. And I'm around for my two daughters and my husband. And I love to go to movies.

Amy C. from Hartford: Hi there, Joy! How did you get to be such a good writer? Did you study writing in school? Do you believe that real writers have to write?

Joy Fielding: It's hard to be a real writer if you don't! I did not study writing (thank you for considering me a good writer) -- I majored in English at university. The best advice to those who want to be writers is to read. Personally, I have an extensive background in English literature. Other than that, I was lucky enough to be born with a good ear for dialogue. I think that to be a successful writer you need two important things: imagination and self-discipline. It also helps if you have no financial expectations and you like spending a lot of time alone.

Joan from Brooklyn: What's the writing process like for you? Are you strictly a nine-to-five writer, or are you more relaxed about when you write?

Joy Fielding: I was never a nine-to-five writer because I could never write for so many straight hours, because it's difficult to maintain concentration. Ideally I write for four hours a day, weekday mornings from nine to one. But in the last few years, because I've gotten busier with other things, I'm finding that my writing schedule is having to be less strict, or more relaxed, which is a nicer way of putting it. Now I write whenever I'll have three or four uninterrupted hours, usually during the week, but I'll work on the weekends if necessary.

Kelly Foggerty from Long Island: How do you come up with such terrifying scenes? Do you ever scare yourself? I think your stuff is great!

Joy Fielding: Thank you very much Kelly! I guess sometimes I'm exploiting my own fears. I've always had a very vivid imagination, but it's hard to pinpoint where you get an idea. Sometimes the idea frightens me, but the actual writing doesn't, because I know how it will turn out. Unlike the heroine, I'm really in control.

Jean Schauerman from Springfield, OR: I really enjoy your books and saw the movie "See Jane Run." Have any of your other books been made into films? If so, which ones? If not, are there others that might be? Thanks. I really look forward to reading your latest.

Joy Fielding: Thank you very much. "Tell Me No Secrets" was recently a movie of the month for ABC. It starred Laurie Lochland, and I thought they did a good job, although they made several changes, especially in the ending. German-language TV produced two of my earlier novels THE DEEP END and LIFE'S PENALTY. My other novels are either under option or have been purchased, and we're waiting to see what happens.

Sandi McCraw from North Carolina: Your books are very compelling and filled with stories about "normal" people. Have you considered revisiting characters from previous novels?

Joy Fielding: Occassionally I do consider it. I'm a little reluctant because I think that most readers have their own ideas about what happens when a novel is finished. Also, I'm reluctant to revisit these characters because I'm afraid that things won't turn out right: Like most readers, I like a happy ending. I did use one characters in two books: Rene Bauer, who was the main character in GOOD INTENTIONS, showed up in a minor but important role in SEE JANE RUN.

Betty Grantz from Whitestone, NY: Ms. Fielding, how do you feel about the comparisons made between your work and Mary Higgins Clark's work? Is that a lot of pressure?

Joy Fielding: I find the comparison interesting, although I think that we're very different. I'm flattered in that it's always nice to be compared to someone so successful, but I think our styles are very different. One reviewer said I was a darker, sexier Mary Higgins Clark, but really, I don't think we write at all in the same way. The only pressure I feel is to create really believable characters and a situation however extreme that feels real to the reader. I don't feel pressure externally as much as I do internally.

Marie Anne from Cleveland: Kate and her husband seem to have the foundation for such a great marriage -- why did you have to break them up, too? Along with all of the other calamities in her life!

Joy Fielding: I don't break them up! They're still together in the end. Certainly, their relationship is tested. Their marriage is strong. There are so many complications in Kate's life that she yearns for an escape back to her youth to what she considers a freer time. It's not so much Robert but what he represents. Kate, like most people, takes her troubles out on the people closest to her.

Holly McCann from Oxford, Mississippi: What brought you from Toronto to Palm Beach? They are such different places!

Joy Fielding: Well, that's one of the reasons. The weather, really. We started vacationing in Florida a long time ago. We visited some friends there and fell in love with it, and so we bought a home there. Toronto and Palm Beach fulfill very different needs. Toronto is a cultural city with a lot of hubbub, Palm Beach is where I go to unwind.

Mark from NYC: How do you feel about the Internet as a means of talking to your fans?

Joy Fielding: This is the first time I've done it. I think it's great! It terrifies me, because it's so new and I don't know how to use it yet. I am planning to get my own Web site -- probably not till next summer, but I'm looking forward to using the Internet more.

Geoffrey Allan Green from Oshawa, Ontario: A fellow Toronto native, eh? Joy, will the Maple Leafs ever regain the Stanley Cup? Please say yes -- give me some hope!

Joy Fielding: Yes! For sure. Actually, we used to go to the games all the time. We still have season tickets, but we haven't been in years because they got so bad! But I remain hopeful!

Kate from Cape Cod: Are your Canadian audiences different at all from your American audiences? Do you have a particular audience in mind when you write?

Joy Fielding: I always think when I write a book that I'm writing it for a couple of women just like me, so I'm always happy to find that women of all ages enjoy the books and that men read them as well. Because I write about, generally speaking, upper-middle-class women, modern women, women living in big cities, I always assumed that that's who was targeted, but in fact the books are sold round the world, and it doesn't seem to matter what culture, what economic group they come from, people seem to connect on the emotional level. As for the difference between American and Canadian audiences, I find that generally, Americans are more outgoing, more generous, and less critical than Canadians.

Julie Harper from San Diego: How do you feel about being dubbed "the maven of domestic terror"?

Joy Fielding: I think it's nice to be dubbed a maven of anything! I think it's fine as long as it's not limiting. I don't like to be categorized, because it limits me in how I'm viewed as a writer. I don't like to think of myself as a genre writer. I like to think that I'm writing contemporary fiction, and I would like to be able to tackle any subject, not necessarily terror.

Tim Cooper from Atlanta: Do you write with the intention of attracting a female audience? How do you feel about being considered a women's writer?

Joy Fielding: I write from a female perspective, and I think that naturally that appeals to a female audience, because we don't often see ourselves portrayed accurately in fiction. But I don't see why that would repel male readers. I'm just telling my story from woman's perspective; I don't think that makes me a women's writer.

Brie K. from NYC: Do you have any literary influences? I loved SEE JANE RUN and can't wait to read MISSING PIECES!

Joy Fielding: Thank you. The writers I most admire are Philip Roth and Carl Hiassen, although I don't think either one has influenced my style. I also like Joan Didion, early Ann Tyler, some of Margaret Atwood, and some Pat Conroy, but I don't think you see any of them in my work. I think I'm developing my own voice as a writer -- I can't trace specific influences.

Meghan from AZ: Joy, what's the most surprising thing you learned about either your characters or yourself while writing MISSING PIECES?

Joy Fielding: Well, certainly one of the surprising things was how much I liked the character of JoLynn. I think in real life I would have little patience for someone like her, but as I created her, as I got insider her, I really liked her. There's a great deal of me in Kate -- it's a very personal book in many ways. Maybe what was so surprising was how much of myself I let into that book.

Jill from Newport, RI: If you were on a deserted island and could only bring three books with you, which books would you bring and why?

Joy Fielding: Well, I'm torn between taking three I love or three I've never read. I would pick the newest Philip Roth, Carl Hiassen that I haven't read, and some big juicy celebrity to keep me entertained. If I were to take some that I love, I would take AMERICAN PASTORAL, THE PRINCE OF TIDES, and FRANNY AND ZOOEY. These I would love to reread.

Kim from L.A.: What kind of research do you do to prepare for writing a book?

Joy Fielding: It varies from book to book. As a rule, I'm not crazy about research. I like to say I like to make up my facts. But I will do however much research I need to do to make the character and the situation believable. Generally I have to research the cities I set the stories in so I know what I'm talking about, and that generally involves visiting the city, studying maps. Some books require more research than others. I had to take a crash course in the Illinois criminal-law system to write TELL ME NO SECRETS. For SEE JANE RUN I had to do research on various drugs and certain medical conditions. for MISSING PIECES I needed to know a lot about the therapy setting, the Florida setting, and the jails. So I do what I have to do. I don't want anyone to read the books and say, "This isn't right."

Felicia Bright from Hinsdale, IL: How long does it take for you to finish a novel? I am a big fan of yours and I'm interested in knowing about your writing process. Any strange habits?

Joy Fielding: I'm sure there are people who would say most of what I do is strange! It generally takes a year from when I get an idea until I send the novel to the publishers. Of that, it is usually four to six months of writing. I always know the beginning and the end of the story, and after I get the idea, I let it sit in my head for a while -- I just let my subconscious work it through. When I'm ready, I do an outline, which is usually between ten and 20 pages long. Then, when I'm actually ready, I do a brief outline of five chapters or so. I rarely outline more than five chapters at a time because so much changes during the actual writing. I aim for about five pages a day -- about 2,000 words a day.I usually estimate that each chapter is about 10 pages, so I aim for 30 chapters and try to structure the book accordingly. Other than that, I don't think I have any strange habits when I'm writing. I can literally stop in the middle of a sentence and come back to it the next day.

Allison Claybourne from Ft. Worth, Texas: What made you tell this story backwards, recounting the incidents and using a retrospective tense?

Joy Fielding: I just thought it would be an interesting perspective -- a way to get the reader's attention and a way to get perspective. It's easier in retrospect to figure things out from a distant date. Plus it allows Kate the luxury of hindsight.

Michelle Davis from L.A.: Your books are so well-told, I feel as though there has to be something more than just a story there. Maybe you are trying to warn women about taking their security for granted? Can you talk about what motivates your works of domestic horror?

Joy Fielding: My main motivation is to write a story people will really enjoy reading. At the same time, my books are definitely cautionary tales for women, warning them not to depend on their security from other people, warning them not to derive or accept their sense of self based on someone else's definition. They're about the need to not blindly trust authority figures, and they're about finding out about who you are, that happiness is on your own hands, that you can't expect people to provide you with that kind of fulfillment. Women have to learn to speak up and to rely on themselves for their sense of self-worth. I'm not trying to exclude men, but I think it's unfair to women and men to expect that men are going to save them, and I think it's wrong to live your life according to someone else's expectations.

Moderator: Ms. Fielding, thanks so much for joining us tonight, and congratulations on the success of MISSING PIECES.

Joy Fielding: It's been my pleasure. I really enjoyed talking to the people out there. Maybe we can do it again!

Customer Reviews

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Missing Pieces 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 25 reviews.
yogagirlOR More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Easy reading and kept my interest. I will read other books from this author.
Guest More than 1 year ago
this book was absoloutley amazing ! i love every minute of it !! i could not put it down i read this book non-stop for three days and i fell in love with the characters! kate was a great character and her sister jo-lynn was a riot !!! you will love this book!
reading_crystal on LibraryThing 8 months ago
I started reading Joy Fielding books in 2006 when I read Mad River Road. Since then I have read her new releases each year and have really enjoyed them. With my library system requests messed up at this time, I can't seem to get a hold of her newest, so I decided to work my way through her backlist (which my local library has on the shelves). This is how I came acrss Missing Pieces.Missing Pieces follows Kate Sinclair, who on the outside looks like she has the perfect life but then the cracks start to show. Her oldest daughter is starting to pull away and be independent, tired of being compared to the perfect younger daughter. Her sister who has always been independent and little wild, has developed a fascination with a man being tried as a serial killer, and her mother is slowly falling prey to dementia. And in the middle of all of this, she runs into a man from her past, a relationship that never came to fruition, one of those what if's that most women have.All of this forms the story as told by Kate. Slowly through the book all the pieces of the story begin to fall into place and it makes for an interesting plot and story to follow. We learn about her family and her past, and all that is going on. I enjoyed reading this book. It is well paced and the characterization is well done. You get to know each of the players at least in some sense, some better than others, but all are well-done.If you like psychological suspense, this is a book you are sure to enjoy. If you enjoy Joy Fielding and haven't read this, make sure you pick it up. I enjoyed spending my time reading this and wondering what would happen next.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
First time reading this author, so glad I did interesting Characters, will be reading more from this autho?
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Suspenseful. Well written. Good characters. e
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I gave read all her books and was surprised i missed this one Glad i read it
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
After reading a few volumes of Sci Fi, I decided to read something light & chose Mission Pieces. Good choice! Not "light reading" or Chic-Lit at all altho some of the author's other novels come across that way. Read the "Details" page for plot summery; but the basics are: protagonist Kate is a therapist struggling with a mother with Alzhiemer's; a teenage daughter hell-bent on destruction; a good but boring husband; a tempting man from her past; and a stepsister in love with a serial killer!
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Guest More than 1 year ago
What a fantastic read! This book grabbed my attention from the first chapter. A great story about a therapist whose sister falls in love with a serial killer. I definitely recommend this page-turner!
Guest More than 1 year ago
Kelly Giordano More than 1 year ago
Not to mention...there are approximately one or two sentences at the end that relate back to the woman missing at the beginning of the story. Not sure what the point was of even introducing her into the srory.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This was the first book I read by Joy Fielding and it did not make me want to get more of her books. The whole book just rambled on with her problems and fighting. The only suspense was in the last 30 pages. If you want really great suspense books reach for anything by Mary Higgins Clark.