Ahern (If You Could See Me Now, 2006, etc.) approaches the less-than-playful subject of missing persons with her typical whimsy.
Sandy Shortt of County Leitrim, Ireland, has been obsessed with lost objects ever since her playmate and rival Jenny-May Butler disappeared when they were ten. Concerned about her obsessive-compulsive tendencies, Sandy’s parents sent her at 14 to a therapist, Gregory Burton, whom she saw until she graduated high school at 18, when he gave her a lingering farewell kiss. Now Sandy, who is 34 and whose 6’1” frame cutely belies her name, runs an agency to find missing people. She also has carried on a romantic relationship with Gregory since she was 21, but she has been unwilling to commit—the apparently unintentional creep factor of this relationship is emblematic of the novel. One early morning, while out jogging, Sandy takes a strange path and ends up in the world of lost things and people. It turns out to be a pretty nice world, actually, with good food. Sandy soon meets most of the persons she’s been looking for over the years, including Jenny-May. While they have made complete lives for themselves, the lost are happy to have Sandy fill them in on the families left behind. Meanwhile, back in Ireland, the last person Sandy noticed before disappearing was a familiar-looking man at a gas station. Coincidentally he is Jack Ruttle, the man she was scheduled to meet to discuss his missing brother. When she doesn’t appear for their meeting, Jack, desperate to find his brother, goes looking for Sandy and stumbles upon the truth about his sibling. Sandy returns, cured of her obsession and ready to embrace the present.
For all her wit and cleverness, Ahern’s romanticizing of missing children, not to mention the disappeared, borders on offensive.