I think I've mentioned before my fondness for the small independent publishing house Persephone Books who produce these wonderful, very stylish, gret bound books mainly, though not exclusively, by female writers. I'm building myself a small collection and recently acquired a copy of Beth Gutcheon's Still Missing and just before Christmas I decided to give it a read.
Still Missing tells the story of Susan Selky, a university lecturer recently separated from her husband, Graham, and mother to little Alex Selky, a very confident nearly seven year old boy. One ordinary morning Alex sets out to walk the three blocks to school and never arrives. Susan discovers that he is missing only after he fails to come home from school; by then the trail is already cold.
With the assistance of her friend and the dogged assistance of Detective Menetti who is himself father to seven children, Susan searches for Alex. The novel closely follows Susan's trials and tribulations in the desperate search for her son.
The novel stays close to Susan's story, taking us through her terrible emotional journey. Her grief, her desperation. It exposes Susan's flaws and uncovers terrible secrets about her friends, her neighbours. No one is outside suspicion and the investigation causes irreparable breaks in some of Susan's closest relationships. You follow Susan's agony; the possibility of Alex's death, the seedy criminal world which is right outside her door which she hasn't seen, and never believed in. Her isolation, her guilt. The unforgiving nature of others, the quickness of those unconnected to the events (and even close friends) to judge. I won't tell you how the novel ends, that would truly spoil the story, but I will say that sitting on the train that day, as a parent of two small children myself, I shed a tear or two. Whether that's of grief or relief, well you'll have to read the book to find out.
Still Missing is an excellent novel, painful in its examination of the terrible truth of losing a child. Those who have followed the terrible story of Madeline McCann might uncover a nugget of truth in themselves by reading this book. The story is well written, the pace never waivers and neither does Gutcheon's eye for uncovering all the painful details. There is always enough unknown to keep you guessing, but just enough uncovered to keep you reading. A painful read for any parent, but a worthwhile one certainly.
Still Missing receives a tearful 8/10 Biis.