Songs for the Missing – Stewart O’Nan
From the back cover -
“It was the summer of her Chevette, of J.P. and letting her hair grow.” It was also the summer when, without warning, popular high school student Kim Larsen disappeared from her small Midwestern town. Her loving parents, her introverted sister, her friends and boyfriend must now do everything they can to find her. As desperate search parties give way to pleading television appearances, and private investigations yield to personal revelations, we see one town’s intimate struggle to maintain hope and finally, to live with the unknown.
Stewart O’Nan’s new novel begins with the suspense and pacing of a thriller and soon deepens into an affecting family drama of loss. On the heels of his critically acclaimed and nationally bestselling Last Night at the Lobster, Songs for the Missing is an honest, heartfelt account of one family’s attempt to find their child. With a soulful empathy for these ordinary heroes, O’Nan draws us into the world of this small Midwestern town and allows us to feel a part of this family.
My thoughts -
I have a hard time saying that I “enjoyed” this book because it was very… somber. And sad. And kind of hopeless, actually, which is not an easy emotion to feel while reading a book. But it was very well-written and engrossing and I definitely flew through this novel, never wanting to put it down for any length of time. Also, the characters were incredibly real. I especially liked Lindsay, Kim’s sister, and I enjoyed reading about both her mourning for Kim and later her transformation into a young adult, dealing with the idea of live without her sister, and finding herself through all the chaos. The other characters were also interesting and I liked most of them, but some of them were a tad one-dimensional, in my opinion (most notably, Kim’s parents). While I am so glad I read this book, and I think O’Nan is a fabulous writer, it was honestly a very sad story and it wasn’t the easiest to read. Because truthfully, very little in the book is hopeful in any way. Other books I have read about disappearing or missing children or adults, such as The Year of Fog, have a positive quality to them – no matter what, the expectation throughout the book is that the missing person will be found (regardless of the actual outcome of the book), and that idea is what propels the majority of the story. In this case… well, not so much. It’s just much more bleak. Not that anyone gives up on Kim, it’s just that the general feeling of the novel is one of despair. I can’t describe it very well, but just don’t be surprised if the book depresses you somewhat. I DO recommend it, it’s a very well-written book that will keep you turning the pages, but it’s not the easiest read.
Songs for the Missing was also reviewed by:
1st to Die – James Patterson
published 2001 – 424 pages
From the back cover -
Enjoy the riveting debut of The Women’s Murder Club – James Patterson’s most exciting series ever. In San Francisco newlyweds are being stalked – and slaughtered. Enter four unforgettable women, all friends… Lindsay, a homicide inspector in the city’s police department, Claire, a medical examiner, Jill, an assistant D.A., and Cindy, a reporter who has just started working the crime deck of the San Francisco Chronicle. Joining forces, pooling their talents, courage, and brains, they have one goal: to find, trap, and outwit the most diabolical and terrifying killer ever imagined.
My thoughts -
I picked this book up because I’ve been having a bit of a reading slump lately, and I thought that an easy, fast-paced book like this would sort of help kick me into gear. While I can’t say that I’m completely recovered from my slump, 1st to Diewas exactly what I anticipated, and exactly what I needed. I haven’t read a Patterson book in forever – I read all of his in high school, and I especially loved the Alex Cross series – but I really haven’t been as into these types of books the last 4-5 years. Patterson writes what I typically think of as “mind candy” … books that are pretty enjoyable, you can wolf down really quickly, but don’t require much energy or thought to get through them. I haven’t really read a lot of “mind candy” books lately, but this one totally hit the spot. In fact, I enjoyed the story and these characters so much that I think I’ll continue with the rest of the series whenever I feel the need for a quick and easy read. I think that although some of these books tend to be a little cliche, the characters in this one were pretty well developed (especially for a book that is the first in a long series) and the story was a decent one, with unpredicted twists. I’m glad I picked it up and I’ll be grabbing the next one at the library sometime in the near future.
We Need To Talk About Kevin – Lionel Shriver
In this gripping novel of motherhood gone awry, Lionel Shriver approaches the tragedy of a high-school massacre from the point of view of the killer’s mother. In letters written to the boy’s father, mother Eva probes the upbringing of this more-than-difficult child and reveals herself to have been the reluctant mother of an unsavory son. As the schisms in her family unfold, we draw closer to an unexpected climax that holds breathtaking surprises and its own hard-won redemption. In Eva, Shriver has created a narrator who is touching, sad, funny, and reflective. A Spellbinding read, We Need to Talk About Kevin is as original as it is timely.
My thoughts –
This book has left me a tad bit stunned and I’m not quite sure what to say about it. Having just finished reading it a few minutes ago, I can easily say that it is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, but at the same time I am so incredibly disturbed and upset by the content that I don’t know how to properly review it for all of you. The character of Eva, the mother of Kevin and the narrator of the story, is SO absolutely believable and real that by the end of the book, my heart truly, truly broke for her and all that she had been through. I’m sitting here, marveling at how a person can live through this kind of unspeakable grief that she has, only to remember that this is a novel, and Eva is only a character, not a real person. The tragedies in this book felt so freaking real to me that I am just very, very sad right now. Obviously, I know this is just a novel, but Shriver does do a creepily good job of highlighting all of the real school shootings that have taken place in America in the last few years, making We Need to Talk About Kevin not just disturbing in the far-off sense, but in the sense that although this particular story isn’t real, Eva could be any number of mothers in this country whose children have done the unthinkable. Of course that’s what makes all scary stories truly scary – they have an element of truth to them that cannot be explained away. This book is amazing – I strongly recommend it. But don’t say I didn’t warn you – I’d be shocked by anyone not left feeling pretty upset after having read this book.
check out what these other bloggers had to say: Lynne at Lynne’s Little Corner of the World, Raych at books i done read, litlove at Tales From the Reading Room, Care at Care’s Online Book Club, Lisamm at Books on the Brain, Bibliolatrist at Bibliolatry, and Dewey at The Hidden Side of a Leaf.
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
From the back cover -
On November 15, 1959, in the small town of Holcomb, Kansas, four members of the Clutter family were savagely murdered by blasts froma shotgun held a few inches from their faces. There was no apparent motive for the crime, and there were almost no clues. As Truman Capote reconstructs the murder and the investigation that led to the capture, trial, and execution of the killers, he generates both mesmerizing suspense and astonishing empathy. In Cold Blood is a work that transcends its moment, yielding poignant insights into the nature of American violence.
My thoughts -
It is actually difficult for me to put into words how I felt about this one. Capote takes what could have been a simple, easy reading smut type true-crime story and turns it into what reads like a literary masterpiece of a novel. The characterization of the killers is impeccable, and the novel’s description is right – the novel generated true empathy from me for the murderers. So yes, this book was very well written, with just the right amount of suspense, shock/horror, and empathy all at once. For some reason, however, it took me a very long time to get into the book. I just was not drawn in from the beginning like I had expected I would be. In addition, the only reason I really finished it is because it was one that I had been meaning to read forever after hearing so many good things about it. Nothing really stuck with me from the first 100 pages; I could have just as easily put it down at that point and never went back. The final third was what kept me going, once I got to the capture of the killers I couldn’t wait to find out what their fate actually was going to be. The thing is, this novel truly is an excellent book, and I’m glad I did read the whole thing. But do I think it’s amazing and everyone will love it? Unfortunately, no. I’d still recommend it, as long as you’re patient. But again, that’s just me.
Rating - 7 out of 10
Read Eva’s review here.
The End of Alice by A.M. Homes
Summary: In this deeply disturbing novel, Homes seems to be attempting to create as repulsive a protagonist as possible-a nameless pedophile serving his 23rd year at Sing Sing. Alongside his narrative is the tale of a 19-year-old college coed obsessed by a preteen boy. A large part of the novel centers on the half-real, half-imagined ties that develop between the convict and the college student as a result of her increasingly graphic letters to him. The rest is a reminiscence of his affair with a 12-year-old seductress named Alice that ends in her gruesome murder. Deliberately shocking and confrontational, Homes’s purpose seems to be to force the reader into a kind of Dostoevskian identification with the blackest and most perverse elements of human nature.
Normally, books that are a little weird or twisted in some way are very enjoyable to me, as I am always interested in the seemingly odd, different, psychologically backward, etc. (that sounds bad… but it’s true.) In this case, however, I was not enthralled with the book in any way. It was simply TOO disgusting, TOO graphic, TOO unbelievable in such a messed up way as to be believable at the same time… it was just … yuck. I also had expected to at least feel some sort of empathy, understanding, or maybe even pity for the narrator (since he was at the center of the entire book, you’d think you would get to know him a bit), but I felt nothing… he fell completely flat in my opinion. The few snapshots of his childhood, which were supposed to provide some insight into why he was the way he was (you know, the whole pedophile thing), were I guess not illuminating enough for me, or there was not enough of them, but those sections of the book did not help me get to know him at all.
The only good thing I really have to say about The End of Alice is that the writing was very excellent and poetic without being poetry-ish. I think I will take a look at some of Homes’ other work and perhaps give her another shot. But for this book in particular, I was just not a big fan.