Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan

Sometimes a book sneaks up on you, surpassing any expectation you might have had for that. Most recently for me, that book was Songs for the Missing. You might be wondering why I bothered to pick up a book that I didn’t even know or care much about, but isn’t that how this always works? Something made me pick it up. It has been lounging on my shelves, waiting quietly, for me to choose it.

Songs for the  Missing begins simply enough. Kim Larsen, during the summer after her senior year of high school, goes missing. This story is not about Kim, but about all who knew her and the repercussions her disappearance have on her life. This story is not about what happens, it’s not about simple actions; instead, it is a treatise on the family and the ties that keep them together and drive them apart.

Stewart O’Nan could probably write about anything, anything, and I would think it was amazing. It’s kind of like the way Julie Andrews could say anything and it would be lovely. He just has the kind of writing that I really respond to as a reader and as a writer. But beyond that, I truly did care for these characters. They felt so real and alive to me.

O’Nan smartly sets his book in 2005, far enough that it looks different from today, but still familiar. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, I love current culture  in books that give it a place and a time. Sure, it can date a book, but it can also provide such a stronger sense of reality.

I can see why people don’t necessarily love this book. There isn’t much in terms of action and the characters aren’t exactly that likable, but I just couldn’t get enough of this. The writing, for me, was superb and the people in this novel so real that I just couldn’t stop reading. I found myself craving this book when I was doing other things.

So go read this!: now | tomorrow | next week | next month | next year | when you’ve exhausted your TBR pile

Caribousmom, Devourer of Books, The Boston Bibliophile, Leafing Through Life, Booking Mama, books i done read, and Books on the Brain all have posts about Songs for the Missing. Do you? Let me know in the comments and I’ll link to it on this list.

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4 thoughts on “Songs for the Missing by Stewart O’Nan

  1. The premise reminds me a bit of The Fates Will Find Their Way, which was recently published . . . I’ve seen lots of great reviews about it and this one intrigues me, too! I have many books that seem to hang around in my bookcase for a while and when I finally get around to reading them, I can’t figure out why I waited so long; they’re amazing. Catherine O’Flynn’s The News Where You Are was like that for me.

  2. You really need to read The Last Night at the Lobster. Especially if you loved this. It’s similar to this one in style – not much happens in the sense of action. His novels are quiet, I guess, would be how I’d describe it.

    I just couldn’t connect with this novel. Or the characters. And I didn’t like the ending. (Not so much the fact that she never turned up but the ceremony)

  3. I haven’t heard anything about this book but I do love when a book sneaks up on you! Especially when it’s so unexpected. Wish I could discover more gems like that on my shelves.

    I’ll keep my eye out. I’m in the mood for “superb” writing!

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