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Review: Still Missing, by Beth Gutcheon


Pages: 374

Original date of publication: 1981

My edition: 2010 (Persephone)

Why I decided to read: it’s a Persephone; what else can I say?

How I acquired my copy: Persephone website, April 2010

When I heard that Persephone would be reprinting this one, I was both excited and apprehensive at the same time. On one hand, the plot sounded interesting; on the other, it’s completely different from what Persephone usually publishes.

One day, Susan Selky sends her almost-seven-year-old son Alex off to school. He disappears, seemingly without trace, and the following nine months, while Susan, her ex, the police, and many others conduct a manhunt for Alex. The novel contains a pretty strong statement about a mother’s long-lasting hope and belief that her son is still alive somewhere, and not dead, as many people fear.

There’s also a pretty strong statement here about how well we really know the people around us: our neighbors, and the people we let into our homes. The strength of this book lies not so much in plot (though that in and of itself is very good), but in character development and the emotional impact the subject matter has on its reader. Tension abounds throughout the book, especially in the days following Alex’s disappearance—there’s a great scene where they all sit and wait for hours for the phone to ring. Susan proves herself to be strong and capable, when most people would simply fall apart if put in her position. Even the cynical Detective Memetti is well developed. There’s a fabulous amount of tension between Susan and her ex, Graham: they’re married, but separated; they’ve hurt each other in the past, but they’re clearly still in love with each other (she still refers to him as her husband; he’s dating a girl who looks just like Susan).

Be warned that there’s a fair amount of graphic violence and sex described in this novel, as well as some crude language that seemed a bit overmuch at times. There’s a very strong homophobic undercurrent to the book, too. The situation with Graham seemed to fizzle out at the end, and the ending seemed very rushed and inconclusive. Other than these reservations, however, I thought this was a pretty taut, fast-paced thriller. This book certainly is completely different from some of the other books that Persephone has reprinted; but it’s definitely one of those novels that make you think about it long after you’ve put it down.

This is Persephone no. 88 Endpaper below:

Comments

Mrs. B. said…
This certainly sounds like a different type of Persephone book. They have a few crime/mystery novels and all of them have been riveting in their way such as The Expendable Man and The Blank Wall. I'm curious about Still Missing. It's now on my wishlist.
Danielle said…
I read this years ago and recall enjoying it. The movie is also very good, though it's been ages now so I don't quite remember how faithful it was to the book. I need to pull it out for a reread (alas I only have an old paperback copy--no Persephone).

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