Reviews: Songs for the Missing

This post will be updated with reviews as they come in.


What’s most remarkable about Songs for the Missing is the fact that O’Nan’s great interest in cold, factual detail never prevents him from making the emotional lives of his characters the primary focus of his attention. [Read more]

The New York Times:

This is a fine, absorbing book. It’s easy to imagine that O’Nan is on a kind of mission to restore a simple, true sense of humanity to the novel: a worthy goal, indeed. [Read more]

USA Today:

Some books should come with warnings. That’s not a complaint, at least in the case of Stewart O’Nan’s haunting novel Songs for the Missing, which kept me up most of the night. [Read more]

The Boston Globe:

Connecticut author Stewart O’Nan is the literary equivalent of what baseball calls a spray hitter, the type of batter who can drive a ball onto the green between the chalk lines in any part of the park to get on base. [Read more]

The book’s emotional power is undeniable, as each character grieves for Kim, wanting her disappearance to mean something beyond “the world’s incoherence.” In the midst of that search, they elegiacally discover a little of what has been missing among themselves. [Read more]

The Free-Lance Star (Fredericksburg, VA):

O’Nan has an uncanny ability to show the still life in detail that we take for granted. The characters that O’Nan creates are so lifelike that one tends to forget that they are fictional. In “Songs for the Missing” it has an unnerving effect. [Read more]


Stewart O’Nan takes this narrative – the stuff of tabloid news and crime fiction – and gives it a sober, literary treatment in his 12th novel, “Songs for the Missing.” This is not a genre whodunit but an internal, psychological novel; O’Nan is less interested in solving a crime than in exploring how everyone reacts to it. [Read more]

The Times-Picayune (New Orleans):

O’Nan’s novel is an elegant elegy: He has plumbed the depth of the horror no one ever wants to experience, and done it with sympathy, honesty and respect. [Read more]

The Denver Post:

“Songs for the Missing” is anything but an easy read, but it’s a spectacular one. And, like most of O’Nan’s work, one that resolutely draws the reader in and refuses to let go. [Read more]

Cleveland Plain Dealer:

Reading “Songs for the Miss ing” is like passing a car wreck on the highway. You shouldn’t look, but there is something mesmerizing in its terror. And for the people of Northeast Ohio, which is where the gifted Stewart O’Nan has set his riveting book, it will feel a little like passing a car accident and seeing yourself there, trapped behind the steering wheel. [Read more]

The Washington Post:

What holds our attention through all this is O’Nan’s careful focus on the minds of shaken family members trapped in a task that consumes their lives and their livelihood. [Read more]

St. Louis Post-Dispatch:

Like all great writers, O’Nan possesses the ability to place the reader squarely inside the thoughts of his characters. [Read more]

L.A. Times:

Whereas thrillers thrust ordinary people into extraordinary situations, O’Nan’s new novel Songs for the Missing flips the switch the other way, showing how that very situation allows the ordinary to come into its own sad and beautiful light. [Read more]

The Seattle Times:

The story becomes less about what happened to Kim and more of a finely shaded study of a middle-class, middle-American family under duress, and a community doing what it can to help. [Read more]

The Miami Herald:

What O’Nan achieves is to draw attention back to the unfortunate reality that, while news of the missing may captivate the nation only momentarily, for the families it will never be viewed or experienced as an acceptable loss. [Read more]

San Francisco Chronicle:

O’Nan has an unerring ear, not only for words but also for the nuances of pain, which is connected to his unwavering commitment to render the truth, no matter the consequences. [Read more]

Star Tribune (Minneapolis):

O’Nan’s 11th novel is a chilling look at guilt and loss. [Read more]

The Economist:

The author’s decision to focus on the day-to-day existence of a family under unbearable strain makes this book far more compelling than a standard police procedural. [Read more]

Dallas Morning News:

Songs for the Missing is the kind of book that makes you wish your flight were longer. [Read more]


Hope and endurance lie at the heart of Stewart O’Nan’s new novel, “Songs for the Missing.” [Read more]

St. Petersburg Times:

One of the great strengths of Songs for the Missing is that very little of what happens then is what you might expect — and yet it rings entirely, heartbreakingly true. [Read more]

Entertainment Weekly:

O’Nan manages to skirt all clichés.  [Read more]

Orlando Sentinel:

In Songs for the Missing, just as he has done in previous novels, O’Nan enmeshes us in the day-to-day existence of his characters. With his faultless ear for the way real people talk and uncanny ability to illuminate ordinary lives, O’Nan mines literary riches in the least-promising places.  [Read more]

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

Another missing girl? Pittsburgh novelist makes familiar story fresh.  [Read more]

Publisher’s Weekly:

(starred review) O’Nan proves that uncertainty can be the worst punishment of all in this unflinching look at an unraveling family. In the small town of Kingsville, Ohio, 18-year-old Kim Larsen—popular and bound for college in the fall—disappears on her way to work one afternoon. Not until the next morning do her parents, Ed and Fran, and 15-year-old sister, Lindsay, realize Kim is missing. The lead detective on the case tells the Larsens that since Kim is an adult, she could, if the police find her, ask that the police not disclose her location to her parents. When Kim’s car later turns up in nearby Sandusky, Ed, desperate to help, joins the official search. Meanwhile, Fran stays home putting all her energy into community fund-raisers, and Lindsay struggles to maintain a normal life. Through shifting points of view, chiefly those of the shell-shocked parents and the moody Lindsay, O’Nan raises the suspense while conveying the sheer torture of what it’s like not to know what has happened to a loved one. When—if ever—do you stop looking?

One thought on “Reviews: Songs for the Missing

  1. Hi Stuart,

    I am an Australian novelist living in London (some of my books have been published in the states by Simon and Schuster and Faber). I write a blog and you might like to know that I’ve directed readers in your direction.

    I’ve just ordered my copy of SONGS FOR THE MISSING and very much look forward to it. Many congratulations.

    All best for the future,

    Susan Johnson

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