Songs for the Missing

I’d wanted to read Last Night at the Lobster, but Songs for the Missing was the Stewart O’Nan book that was available.

It’s a good read. Haunting, in its own way. It tells the story of a family as they experience, and then deal with, the death of their teenage daughter.

But O’Nan is very particular about his subject. There is no focus on the absence, or how it happened. No CSI style focus on mystery or gore. Rather, this is purely about the family – what they’re experiencing, and the agony of not knowing.

O’Nan has an incredibly understated style. In some ways its perfect – slow, dreary, melancholic. He captures very well the long, slow, every day struggle of a family trying to collect the pieces, and to move on. That works well.

But at the same time it can feel as though he undersells the story; when there are only a few pages to what must be traumatic, devastating, life changing experiences for the characters, it can feel odd that they get as much attention as going to the supermarket. In that sense it’s perhaps a very minimalist realism, but … it doesn’t quite feel right to me.

Still, a good read overall.


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