“The Missing” by Sarah Langan is a book that I have been reading aloud with FH over the last few months. We keep it in the car to read on long drives, which is why it has taken so long, but we finally finished it last night. My initial assessment upon completion of this book was what a weird fucking book. FH shares this opinion.
The prologue certainly gathered our attention, we don’t know whom is narrating but they paint an intriguing picture. “Through the cracks in my windows and chimney flue, there is only the howling wind, and underneath that, barely discernible screams.” (The Missing, pg 3). The prologue ends with this: “I have a story for you. Forgive me if it seems I’m telling you things that I could not possibly know. This is a small town, and you hear gossip. Besides, the dead do speak.
So gather round, as I used to tell the children during story hour. Gather round.” (The Missing, pg 5). I thought this was definitely an interesting way to start a story. For the rest of the novel we were trying to decide which character was narrating at the beginning.
“The Missing” begins with a class trip. Lois Larkin takes her kids on a field trip and a troublemaker, James Walker, basically is responsible for beginning an epidemic. He sneaks away from the group into the woods where he goes to die. It is only when Lois is back on the bus heading home that she realizes that James is not on the bus. A search party is put together and Lois wanders away from the others. “Lois, the voice said. It came from two places. It licked her ears and sated the itch like rain on a thirsty flower…
…Something moved inside her, and she jumped back and scrambled a few feet from the hole while sliding on her butt so that the legs of her trousers turned dark with soot. The thing peered out from her eyes. She could feel it. An enemy slithering between her ears. Lois, it whispered. Her heart pounded, and for a moment she was tempted to gouge her eyes in order to pull the thing out.” (The Missing, pg 97). I really liked this quote because I think it is a good representation of just how weird Sarah Langan’s writing can be. She doesn’t lack for imagery.
Part of what makes “The Missing” so interesting is that it is told through a few different characters. This lets the reader see how a wide scope of people react to the dire situation the town finds themselves in. One of the main characters is Fenstad Wintrob, a physiatrist with a troubled marriage, one kid away at college, and a rebellious teenager daughter at home. His character makes a dramatic change as the madness in the town unfolds. Some characters fight to survive and others go a different direction. I enjoyed observing how different individuals react to a crisis.
Would I recommend this book? Not to most people, that’s for sure. It is just so strange. It seemed almost like Sarah Langan was creating the strangest thing she could think of and then going to the next level with it to the realm of beyond ridiculous. It certainly kept things interesting. I’m glad that this wasn’t the first book of hers that I had read. Overall I think I enjoyed the book, but it doesn’t really inspire me to pick up more of her work.
Side note – One thing that tends to stick out when reading a book aloud are errors, both spelling and grammatical. I was sad to see that “The Missing” (printed Oct 2007) had more than a few mistakes. Shame on whomever edited this edition. That is all.