THE MISSING by Andrew O’Hagan


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 A haunting look at the phenomenon of missing persons. Scottish journalist O'Hagan explored the United Kingdom in search of stories of people who have vanished. He begins with his own grandfather, a sailor lost at sea, and continues the search through the ugly tenements where he grew up--and where several boys were lost. He interviews the families of these children, and their agony is horribly vivid. One father happened upon a look-alike of his missing son and almost begged the boy to move to his house and pretend to be his son. Other parents obsessively flip through photographs of their missing children, forever frozen in time at the age they were when taken. The police call the vanished ``mispers,'' for missing persons, and are only now beginning to compile records on the subject. O'Hagan also visits a grim center for homeless teens, where the residents do their best to sever any remaining familial ties. He follows the trail of a number of lost girls to the home of Fred West, who killed at least 25 female boarders and buried them in his backyard. These stories are unrelenting, and O'Hagan presents solid insights into both the minds of the families and those of some who've deliberately disappeared. But the grisly litany would have been better served by the presence of real insight into why people vanish. He revisits the murder scene of James Bulger, a young boy killed by two 10-year-olds, and recounts episodes of his own cruelty, as a child, toward other children. But while O'Hagan raises the fascinating specter of child sadism, he doesn't speculate on its causes, quickly dropping the matter. Though somewhat lacking in a sense of the big picture, this is a powerfully observed and often heartbreaking portrait in miniature of those who disappear and the effect on those they leave behind.

Pub Date: Oct. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 1-56584-335-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: New Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 1996


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