aprilhenry (aprilhenry) wrote,

Stolen and Still Missing - two books about kidnappings that address "you"

I just read two books back to back that have a lot in common. They are both about women (one a teen) being abducted by a man who plans to hold them hostage forever. And they both address "you." In one book, the girl is writing a letter to the man who kidnapped her. And in the other, the woman is telling her therapist what happened during the year she was missing - with the caveat that the therapist cannot interrupt or ask questions.

I'm not sure in either case that the framework serves the story, although that is much more true in Still Missing.

Here's how Stolen begins: "You saw me before I saw you. In the airport, that day in August, you had that look in your eyes, as thought you'd wanted it for a long time. No one had ever looked at me like that before, with that kind of intensity. It unsettled me, surprised me I guess. Those blue, blue eyes, icy blue, looking back at me as I could warm them up. They're pretty powerful, you know, pretty beautiful, too."

It gets a little awkward when she describes a few things they both know, but it is on the whole a well-written, absorbing book. You have to suspend a little disbelief about how he managed to spirit her from Bangkok to the Australian outback, but for the most part it works.

Then there's Still Missing. It begins, "You know, Doc, you're not the first shrink I've seen since I got back. The one my family doctor recommended right after I came home was a real prize. The guy actually tried to act like he didn't know who I was, but that was a pile of crap—you'd have to be deaf and blind not to. Hell, it seems like every time I turn around another asshole with a camera is jumping out of the bushes. But before all this shit went down? Most of the world had never heard of Vancouver Island, let alone Clayton Falls. Now mention the island to someone and I'm willing to bet the first thing out of their mouth will be, "Isn't that where that lady realtor was abducted?""

The narrative choice works much less well here. It is literally all telling, not showing. The author tries to help us picture the scene in the shrink's office by having the narrator say things like, "The blue scarf you're wearing looks great with your eyes, by the way. Your'e pretty stylish for an older woman, you know, with your black turtlenecks and long fitted skirts."

Just try to imagine someone saying that in real life. Or this: "When my body began to respond in a wave of pleasure I wasn't quite ready to surf, I moved his hand back to cup my breast."

There some other things about the book that bothered me, too. Like a washer and dryer in a cabin that's off the grid (and a washer and dryer that are never mentioned in the description of the one-room cabin). A baby makes an appearance in the book, and it reminds me of how on TV, all babies seem to be born already about six months old. As far as I can tell, the author does not have children, and I would guess neither the editor nor copyeditor do either, because the baby does not act at all like a newborn, and none of the details ring true.

It's like a movie version of the baby, just like the kidnapping is a movie version of a kidnapping.

[Full disclosure: The book has garnered good reviews and is on the NYT extended bestseller list, so clearly I am in the minority.]

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