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In New York City, a girl called Leonora vanishes without a trace. Years earlier and miles upstate, Goldie, a wild, negligent mother, searches for a man to help raise her precocious son, Paul, who later discovers that the only way to save his soul is to run away. As the narrative moves back and forth in time, we find deeper interconnections between these stories and growing In New York City, a girl called Leonora vanishes without a trace. Years earlier and miles upstate, Goldie, a wild, negligent mother, searches for a man to help raise her precocious son, Paul, who later discovers that the only way to save his soul is to run away. As the narrative moves back and forth in time, we find deeper interconnections between these stories and growing clues about Leonora—this missing girl whose face looks out from telephone poles and billboards—whom one character will give anything to save. The Sweet Relief of Missing Children is a suspenseful novel about the power of running and the desire for reinvention. It explores the terror and transcendence of our most central experiences: childhood, parenthood, sex, love.


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In New York City, a girl called Leonora vanishes without a trace. Years earlier and miles upstate, Goldie, a wild, negligent mother, searches for a man to help raise her precocious son, Paul, who later discovers that the only way to save his soul is to run away. As the narrative moves back and forth in time, we find deeper interconnections between these stories and growing In New York City, a girl called Leonora vanishes without a trace. Years earlier and miles upstate, Goldie, a wild, negligent mother, searches for a man to help raise her precocious son, Paul, who later discovers that the only way to save his soul is to run away. As the narrative moves back and forth in time, we find deeper interconnections between these stories and growing clues about Leonora—this missing girl whose face looks out from telephone poles and billboards—whom one character will give anything to save. The Sweet Relief of Missing Children is a suspenseful novel about the power of running and the desire for reinvention. It explores the terror and transcendence of our most central experiences: childhood, parenthood, sex, love.

30 review for The Sweet Relief of Missing Children

  1. 5 out of 5

    Leigh Hecking

    I received this book as part of Good Reads "First Reads" contest. The title and cover were intriguing and I was immediately drawn into the writing. I will say this for Sarah Braunstein - she is a great writer. There were some really clever, fresh metaphors in the book, as well as wonderful imagery. No doubt, the author's raw talent was harnessed by her professors at the coveted University of Iowa's writing program. But what is great language without content? Yes, she is a good writer, but whethe I received this book as part of Good Reads "First Reads" contest. The title and cover were intriguing and I was immediately drawn into the writing. I will say this for Sarah Braunstein - she is a great writer. There were some really clever, fresh metaphors in the book, as well as wonderful imagery. No doubt, the author's raw talent was harnessed by her professors at the coveted University of Iowa's writing program. But what is great language without content? Yes, she is a good writer, but whether Sarah Braunstein is a good storyteller was unclear to me. The plot (if it could be called such) meandered, the reader rarely got to stay with the characters, the narrative jumped back and forth in time, critical scenes were never revisited or given closure (in particular the scene where Jade raises the rock at Libby in the woods comes to mind) and the tenuous connections between people and places were difficult to ascertain and later recall. On top of that, why were the connections so important - both to the story and the reader? What did it matter if Joe and Hank were friends in High school? Why did it matter that Judy lives in Paul/Pax's old house? Did knowing these things illuminate anything else? Not particularly. The author attempts to draw everything together in the end, with Leonora discovering the picture of the tree in the kidnapper's house is the same tree she saw that morning. But what does this mean or matter? Is it a hopeful message or a cynical one? Does it mean everything is connected or is it just an attempt to make sense of the senseless - a little girl's death. There is no question that the writing was good, but I think this would have worked better as a series of short stories than as a novel. For such a character-driven novel, I cared little about the characters. If I started to care, the author panned out, went to another scene, another time, another character, leaving me ultimately unsatisfied. While it was truthful and refreshing to see children grow up and struggle with their adult roles, to see people frozen by inertia or indecision, the sheer number of characters struggling with this was paralyzing as a reader. Does every wife secretly hate her husband and want to run away? Does every mother doubt her role, or at some point, feel sexually attracted to her own child? I felt like each character was a snapshot, an aerial view taken from above. I kept waiting for the author to zoom in on one character and to stay with them, but she kept pulling back, moving to the next. I'd definitely be curious to read more from this author, but I'm in no hurry to revisit this book, and feel glad to be free of the sad, meaningless entanglements of its characters.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Jill

    In this discomforting debut book, every character – and there are many – is guilty of the crime of passivity. It starts with the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl, Leonora – a good girl, who does everything right, a cautious and obedient young lady who possesses “calm confidence, concern for the lower classes, a dimple in her right cheek.” Yet this is not a book about Leonora, who inhabits a small fraction of the 360+ pages. Rather, it’s about all kinds of “missing” children – children who have In this discomforting debut book, every character – and there are many – is guilty of the crime of passivity. It starts with the disappearance of a 12-year-old girl, Leonora – a good girl, who does everything right, a cautious and obedient young lady who possesses “calm confidence, concern for the lower classes, a dimple in her right cheek.” Yet this is not a book about Leonora, who inhabits a small fraction of the 360+ pages. Rather, it’s about all kinds of “missing” children – children who have grown up, those who have gone missing emotionally or physically, those who have been exploited or who have grown alien to themselves and their families. It is, at its core, a book about trying to find one’s place in a careless world. Sarah Braunstein uses an interlocking story format to introduce several characters to form a sort of kaleidoscopic of our own desperate and hopeless efforts to pursue and yet push away the things in life we want the most. As readers, we meet them all: Paul (ironically renamed Pax, which stands for “peace”) – a boy who has run away from an abusive stepfather and who experiences not a moment of peace, who “felt a desire to smash love into his body, to smash love into the world, to allow love to be the violent act he’d always suspected it was.” We meet Judith (another irony – her name stands for “freedom”) who is anything but free as she marries young, moves to exactly the kind of quiet “every town” she’s wanted to escape, but in the end, cannot. We meet Sam, her young husband, an orphaned character who does everything right, but cannot break free to live larger than what appears to be his predestined fate. These and a handful of other characters bump and grind and thrash against each other, meeting up in odd ways, experiencing the bad in life and surviving in slightly diminished forms. Children grow up, adults flash back to childhood traumas and all have been affected in one way or the other. As Pax says about his childhood home, “I expected it to be – like, neutral. How stupid. Nothing is neutral, right? Least of all the home you grew up in.” Little by little, Braunstein explores these characters’ fears – of shame and abandonment and loss of control and hope. Although the desire for transformation and reinvention is strong, it is difficult to obtain. And as they strive, the eyes of the missing Leonora peer down from ubiquitous billboards, not unlike the eyes of Dr. T.J. Eckleburg in The Great Gatsby. I suspect it is no coincidence that Leonora’s eyes perform the same function as Dr. Eckleburg’s – watching over their respective desolate and foul wastelands with a certain aura of judgment. This is not a “feel good” book nor does it always work; there is such a large cast of characters and so many stories pleading for attention that it’s easy to become a little lost in the wilderness. Yet this novel – which spans decades – is also confidently written with many strong insights and an original voice. While it is not a book I’d recommend for everyone, it is a rewarding book for those who can handle multifaceted themes and wish to experience a writer on the cusp of potential greatness.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Sara

    I automatically give one star as a base to books I had to put down. This is one of those annoying books with every chapter introducing a new character, with a lot of emotional carrying-on, and no plot, but hints that all is interconnected somehow. It might just be me, but I am quickly annoyed at those books that revolve around too much inner life, unless they are really spectacular. After about the sixth character chapter, with no connection to anything, I quit. The writing is nice, hopefully Br I automatically give one star as a base to books I had to put down. This is one of those annoying books with every chapter introducing a new character, with a lot of emotional carrying-on, and no plot, but hints that all is interconnected somehow. It might just be me, but I am quickly annoyed at those books that revolve around too much inner life, unless they are really spectacular. After about the sixth character chapter, with no connection to anything, I quit. The writing is nice, hopefully Braunstein will write something else.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Amy

    Okay so this book illustrates what I hate about the random new arrival shelf. I actually got about 1/3 of the way through this and I only picked it up yesterday. But, like so many contemporary books, the idea is fascinating, the writing hooks the reader, and in this book the style and plot are intriguing. However, I just can't finish this because after about 1/3 of it I had as much vulgarity as I could handle. Is this author representing a majority of the population out there? She has many chara Okay so this book illustrates what I hate about the random new arrival shelf. I actually got about 1/3 of the way through this and I only picked it up yesterday. But, like so many contemporary books, the idea is fascinating, the writing hooks the reader, and in this book the style and plot are intriguing. However, I just can't finish this because after about 1/3 of it I had as much vulgarity as I could handle. Is this author representing a majority of the population out there? She has many character's and their lives in this book and the reader is a peeper into them. But they are all depraved, sexual and gross. What is up with that? There might be a redeeming quality in this book, it might make a statement, but do I really have to read all the smut to get it? Really? Does it make the author a more creative writer if she adds this kind of crap? In my opinion... NO! You know a fascinating plot and good character development is enough, you really, honestly do NOT have to add graphic sexual talk or description to tell a story. I would think, if you are a good writer, you would want to show you can do this WITHOUT all the perversion. Because, I'm pretty sure that if 90% of your characters are that perverted, you are guessing at what 90% of your readers what to read... UGH!!! It's really a shame because I think I would have liked to know what happened, but I don't even want to skim ahead. BLECH!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    The Sweet Relief of Missing Children begins with the story of Leonora. She is pretty and tidy and protected. She has her vaccinations, she knows not to talk to strangers, she eats her vegetables and she never takes the shortcut through the alley. She is precious to her parents and she understands these precautions because she understands that she cannot be both precious and free. In the end, none of it matters. Sarah Braunstein’s novel begins and ends with Leonora, but woven throughout the book a The Sweet Relief of Missing Children begins with the story of Leonora. She is pretty and tidy and protected. She has her vaccinations, she knows not to talk to strangers, she eats her vegetables and she never takes the shortcut through the alley. She is precious to her parents and she understands these precautions because she understands that she cannot be both precious and free. In the end, none of it matters. Sarah Braunstein’s novel begins and ends with Leonora, but woven throughout the book are the stories of other people, other missing children, who are tangentially connected to Leonora. Their lives are sad and desperate and although it seems like something could be salvaged from them, nothing ever is. This is not a novel for people who like straightforward story-telling. (I seem to say that a lot lately — lots of twisty story lines these days.) Bits and pieces of stories are woven together, forward and backwards in time, and it was sometimes hard to keep everything straight. These are all people whose lives brush up against each other — some of them are related, some of them are simply acquainted — but each brush makes a mark. There was poor Paul, a lonely boy whose mother leaves him home alone on his birthday. Thomas who can’t stop himself from watching Goldie, Paul’s mother, usually through her windows late at night. There’s Sam, a nice young man who wants desperately to be a bad boy, and Judith, who really was a bad girl. Joe and Constance and their interrupted honeymoon, and their new stepson, Sam. Sam helped rescue Judith, but left Helen behind…and then there’s Helen’s strange and striking encounter with Constance. Their lives intersect in unexpected and intriguing ways, but it can be difficult keeping them all straight. Perhaps that’s part of the appeal — I would work my way through a chapter, a wedding, an argument, and then suddenly realize that this must be the same person as in an earlier chapter, only a different part of the timeline. I enjoy that, I enjoy the confusion and sense of discovery you get, but that doesn’t appeal to all readers. I enjoyed the book, but in the end, it didn’t really move me. I haven’t felt the urge to tell people about it, to recommend it to other readers, as I have with other books I’ve finished more recently. Good, but not great, I suppose. It would make a great book club selection — there is so much that would make for good debate, and so many potential discussions about the timeline and the choices the characters make, but it isn’t something I’m likely to re-read on my own. Originally posted at AliveontheShelves.com.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This is another one of those books that is actually a bunch of interconnected short stories. On the positive side, the writing here is quite good, and the way the author fits the pieces together is masterful. I actually thought this was going to be a mystery about a missing child. And there is indeed a missing child, but this is more a conceptual book about being "lost." There are many (too many) characters, and they each have their own way of being or feeling missing. This was interesting, but This is another one of those books that is actually a bunch of interconnected short stories. On the positive side, the writing here is quite good, and the way the author fits the pieces together is masterful. I actually thought this was going to be a mystery about a missing child. And there is indeed a missing child, but this is more a conceptual book about being "lost." There are many (too many) characters, and they each have their own way of being or feeling missing. This was interesting, but ultimately, this was not a particularly fun book to read. There was not much suspense. The stories were creepy and bleak. When I finished, I just felt kind of dirty.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Aurora

    I'm between "liked" and "really liked" on this one, mainly because it's just so bleak and depressing, and I'm dealing with a sad situation in real life right now...so it was a little bit of work to finish the book, as nothing ever got better for any of the characters. BUT: Braunstein's writing is superb - she chooses just the right details and nuances, fresh ways of looking at familiar life scenarios, and that's what I kept coming back for. Here's an excerpt: "It was a damp Tuesday in May. They w I'm between "liked" and "really liked" on this one, mainly because it's just so bleak and depressing, and I'm dealing with a sad situation in real life right now...so it was a little bit of work to finish the book, as nothing ever got better for any of the characters. BUT: Braunstein's writing is superb - she chooses just the right details and nuances, fresh ways of looking at familiar life scenarios, and that's what I kept coming back for. Here's an excerpt: "It was a damp Tuesday in May. They were late for the bus, so Judith drove Diana to school. She was in the second grade; her teacher was Mrs. Hoop, round, dull, all cream and beige except for the gleaming red fingernails of a prostitute. Judith kissed the girl's head. She drove home in a misting rain. Then she ate half a tub of cottage cheese while reading a story in the paper about some local girls who'd started a Sally Ride Society. They wanted to be astronauts, wrote letters to NASA, to the President: Send more ladies to space! They were planning another bake sale to raise money for a trip to Cape Canaveral. The optimism and pride of those girls unnerved Judith. There was so much terror in the world, bombs and arms deals and famines, all those dead people in Oklahoma City for god's sake (the mother of one of the dead lived in the next town over, was regarded as a heroine for spawning a victim, glorious for her tie to the tragedy), and here a gaggle of preteens planned moon missions, baked cupcakes and decorated them with little stars. All hope was misplaced. The world needed hope desperately, but it always came from the wrong people and went to the wrong things. If she ever came across one of their bake sales she would not buy a thing. The dead son in Oklahoma was twenty-two, had a fiance. Those girls had no right to the cosmos." Briliant. I will definitely be reading more by Sarah Braunstein.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Natasha

    I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads - my first hardcover win, and I love everything about the cover.... except the title. I find the title of the book a bit off-putting, although I suppose it makes a person think and wonder as to its exact meaning, which may interest someone enough to pick it up and start reading. There are many characters in the book, and for a while it is very disjointed. Many of the characters' stories start to overlap, and author Sarah Braunstein does I received this book for free through Goodreads First Reads - my first hardcover win, and I love everything about the cover.... except the title. I find the title of the book a bit off-putting, although I suppose it makes a person think and wonder as to its exact meaning, which may interest someone enough to pick it up and start reading. There are many characters in the book, and for a while it is very disjointed. Many of the characters' stories start to overlap, and author Sarah Braunstein does a beautiful job painting the picture with her words - there is a lot of rich, descriptive imagery. It is not a book that leaves you feeling good at the end, the conclusion is not tied up with a pretty bow. In fact, basically the entire book is filled with passive characters - people that started off as hopeful children only to be faced with doom and gloom and lose their innocence, and they do nothing but accept their fate and do nothing to improve their quality of life. This is probably a confusing review, as I'm not very good at writing them and the book was a bit confusing to read. It was well-written, but the book left me unsatisfied. I wouldn't recommend it for everyone - but if you enjoy a book that is multi-faceted and really makes you think, but has no concrete conclusion - this one is for you.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Nancy

    This book was written in a cold detached style, which rendered the multitude of characters rather weak and listless. I often like the style of storytelling in which several different story lines are presented independently and eventually integrated together in cathartic unity. The author aimed for this style, but several of her characters were superfluous and inessential to the narrative. Fairly early on, I became overwhelmed by the ever increasing quantity of listless characters, all of whom we This book was written in a cold detached style, which rendered the multitude of characters rather weak and listless. I often like the style of storytelling in which several different story lines are presented independently and eventually integrated together in cathartic unity. The author aimed for this style, but several of her characters were superfluous and inessential to the narrative. Fairly early on, I became overwhelmed by the ever increasing quantity of listless characters, all of whom were either terribly dull or terribly weird (weird-yuck, not weird-charming). It was like, “Oh for crying out loud, here come another couple of listless dull/weird characters who seemingly have no connection to any of the other listless dull/weird characters that have already been introduced.” The only thing all the characters discernibly had in common was some sort of unfortunate tie to the stink hole town called Beetle, NY. As if to embody their town’s name, its inhabitants indeed were creepy little souls. As noted by one of them, they “put the PU in Upstate New York.” The sole character for whom I felt empathy (herself not from Beetle) met a gruesome early end, which was a little disappointing; but alas not much.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Judith

    Five stories going back and forth through time.....ending, or focusing, on the disappearance of 12-year old Leonora Coulter...deemed a "good" girl by her family and friends...a girl who got caught in a 'twist of fate" Five sets of characters who interact with each other in unexpected ways throughout the book. Awkward, damaged people going through life with enough "baggage" to down an airplane. Small town life...the flip side of Bucolic The awkward style of this book bothered, and distracted, me...un Five stories going back and forth through time.....ending, or focusing, on the disappearance of 12-year old Leonora Coulter...deemed a "good" girl by her family and friends...a girl who got caught in a 'twist of fate" Five sets of characters who interact with each other in unexpected ways throughout the book. Awkward, damaged people going through life with enough "baggage" to down an airplane. Small town life...the flip side of Bucolic The awkward style of this book bothered, and distracted, me...until i realized it was perfect for these characters...most of whom are searching for reinvention...seeking acceptance, and comfort, and a sense of identity. The surprising ways in which they interact and separate remind me of broken glass on the sidewalk....that, in spite of the separateness of the pieces, the whole splintered mess, in fact, forms a weird kind of Whole This wasn't an easy read and these people are not lovable......the atmosphere was desperate, claustrophobic, and strange....In an odd way I like it, and respect Ms Braunstein for letting her characters speak in their own tongues... *this was an ARC from Library Thing Early Readers* 3 stars

  11. 4 out of 5

    Kari Koehler

    This is a book that I won from the giveaways page here on GR. I am excited to begin this book this morning... will let you know what I think! What I think - not very far into the book - the intro was compelling and made me want to read more - now I am confused because it flips back and forth and I hate the character Goldie, so much so that I am contemplating putting the book down! UPDATE *3/31/2011* Still trying to get through this book. I almost have to force myself to read it. The characters ar This is a book that I won from the giveaways page here on GR. I am excited to begin this book this morning... will let you know what I think! What I think - not very far into the book - the intro was compelling and made me want to read more - now I am confused because it flips back and forth and I hate the character Goldie, so much so that I am contemplating putting the book down! UPDATE *3/31/2011* Still trying to get through this book. I almost have to force myself to read it. The characters are confusing and I am thinking about making a small character chart to keep with me. I sat the book down in our break room at work - it is gone! That is probly a blessing!

  12. 4 out of 5

    Laima

    still reading... very dark but well written so far. There are lots of characters and shifting back and forth in time. This novel is maintaining my interest. Just finished reading The Sweet Relief of Missing Children. There are several story lines going on in this book concurrently. Missing children come in various forms: kidnapped, runaways, identity changes, orphans, miscarriages, abortions, abandoned children. The lives of several characters flow back and forth in time and even cross paths at still reading... very dark but well written so far. There are lots of characters and shifting back and forth in time. This novel is maintaining my interest. Just finished reading The Sweet Relief of Missing Children. There are several story lines going on in this book concurrently. Missing children come in various forms: kidnapped, runaways, identity changes, orphans, miscarriages, abortions, abandoned children. The lives of several characters flow back and forth in time and even cross paths at some point. The author writes in excellent prose and does a tremendous job with this, her first novel. Excellent work Sarah!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Enjee

    I received this book in the Goodreads First Reads program. This is a mystery that spans several decades, following characters that figure in the final chapter. The prose is beautiful. Some of the characters are slightly interesting in that they are different from myself and I always enjoy reading alternate experiences other than my own; but ultimately they are unsympathetic. Doesn't anyone practice birth control? The plot is uninspiring. There is no solution to the mystery, hence the reduced scor I received this book in the Goodreads First Reads program. This is a mystery that spans several decades, following characters that figure in the final chapter. The prose is beautiful. Some of the characters are slightly interesting in that they are different from myself and I always enjoy reading alternate experiences other than my own; but ultimately they are unsympathetic. Doesn't anyone practice birth control? The plot is uninspiring. There is no solution to the mystery, hence the reduced score.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Colleen Turner

    I reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com In a time when it seems to happen all too often, the abduction of a child makes us all collectively cringe, it makes us want to ask “why?” knowing there is no good answer. But what about all the other ways a child can go missing? What about the runaways, the lost, the discarded or the child suppressed inside each adult that stays hidden from view but never completely dissipates? The Sweet Relief of Missing Children explores all of these issues, and m I reviewed this book for www.luxuryreading.com In a time when it seems to happen all too often, the abduction of a child makes us all collectively cringe, it makes us want to ask “why?” knowing there is no good answer. But what about all the other ways a child can go missing? What about the runaways, the lost, the discarded or the child suppressed inside each adult that stays hidden from view but never completely dissipates? The Sweet Relief of Missing Children explores all of these issues, and many more, in a twisting, turning story of a variety of characters never quite happy in their own skin. The Sweet Relief of Missing Children is broken up into six parts, each of the first five parts beginning with chapters of a 12-year-old girl named Leonora relaying how she was kidnapped and the sixth part imparting the story of a man who interacted with her on the day she went missing. We learn from the very beginning, in Leonora’s own words, that she will disappear. Leonora’s story is by far the most compelling and heartbreaking part of the book. As a parent it was hard to read as she explained that she had been taught all the warning signs of “stranger danger” and what to do if she found herself in a difficult situation. She nonetheless lets her instinct to help others take over and finds herself locked in a rumpus room basement, still never believing that any true harm would come to her. The rest of the chapters are devoted to a menagerie of characters and could be hard to follow as it skips around between people and time periods and, often, has the various characters interact without having previously known each other. I would have found it more fulfilling to have had fewer characters that had more developed story lines. Still, the themes that continually popped up throughout – children looking for acceptance and love, teenagers looking for freedom and exploration, adults looking for the life they always imagined they should live – helped showcase the concept that a person doesn’t have to be physically absent to be missing. The Sweet Relief of Missing Children is one of those books that does not shy away from exploring themes of society that many of us think about but rarely speak of. If you’re looking for “happy ever after” in your stories then this book is definitely not for you. However, if you enjoy a multi-layered exploration of love, loss, desire and dissatisfaction then it is worth a try as the author does a very good job of presenting these sometimes unsavory topics.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Blake Fraina

    With The Sweet Relief of Missing Children Sarah Braunstein concocts a deeply odd yet profoundly affecting novel that is tenuously centered around Leonora, a privileged young girl who goes missing in Manhattan. I use the term "tenuously centered" because the stories of the book’s other characters swirl and eddy loosely around Leonora’s fate; almost none of them actually know her and some of them don’t even know about her. The characters are all so specific and finely drawn that it was a pleasure With The Sweet Relief of Missing Children Sarah Braunstein concocts a deeply odd yet profoundly affecting novel that is tenuously centered around Leonora, a privileged young girl who goes missing in Manhattan. I use the term "tenuously centered" because the stories of the book’s other characters swirl and eddy loosely around Leonora’s fate; almost none of them actually know her and some of them don’t even know about her. The characters are all so specific and finely drawn that it was a pleasure getting to know each of them and their individual stories, even though, while reading it, I sometimes had difficulty keeping track of everyone and felt slightly confused over the general direction of the book as a whole. Aside from Leonora, who is a happy and kind little girl, the two other prominent characters are dreamy drifter Paul, who has escaped a life of privation with his neglectful mother and her abusive husband, and Judith, a rebellious teen runaway who matures into just another bored suburban housewife. In addition to these three, there are numerous others whose lives intersect and overlap, influencing one another and making decisions that impact the direction of their lives. Braunstein closely follows each character, illustrating the cause-and-effect relationship between where they start and where they end up. Like Leonora, who makes one awful, momentary error in judgment that changes the course of the rest of her life, all these people make choices, big and small, that lead them down seemingly irreversible paths. So although most of the other characters are not directly impacted by Leonora’s disappearance, her relationship to them becomes a symbolic one. Her short life and the hairpin turn it takes throws into sharp relief the more protracted and "ordinary" fates of the books other characters. I’ll admit, this was a difficult review to write and I don’t think I captured how involving this story (or maybe, more appropriately, these stories) turned out to be. Nor do I think my interpretation does the book justice. This is very rich material - structurally and thematically. This is not a thriller, although there is an element of suspense, nor is it a tear-jerker, although there is tragedy galore. It’s a carefully constructed work of literary fiction that I recommend to anyone seeking a novel populated by complicated, believable characters that will keep you thinking long after you’ve read the last sentence.

  16. 5 out of 5

    LuAnn

    Sad, forlorn, convoluted, disjointed … these are just some of the adjectives that describe the characters in this book. It’s a revealing tale of human misery … of how dysfunctional lives provide children with no hope or pleasure to call their own. This is a heart-rending novel of young people who find it necessary to run for their lives, to exist elsewhere in a time and place where they expect to escape the reality that is their families. A parallel is drawn between real and self-imposed abductio Sad, forlorn, convoluted, disjointed … these are just some of the adjectives that describe the characters in this book. It’s a revealing tale of human misery … of how dysfunctional lives provide children with no hope or pleasure to call their own. This is a heart-rending novel of young people who find it necessary to run for their lives, to exist elsewhere in a time and place where they expect to escape the reality that is their families. A parallel is drawn between real and self-imposed abduction as children disappear and their parents have no idea what happened to them. Even the authorities wonder if they were kidnapped or if they simply ran away. For some, it is the horror of the former, of being nabbed by those who find it necessary to imbibe in sadistic pleasures at the expense of the innocent and trusting. The latter category is made up of those who feel they have no other option but to flee the reality of the lives they have been thrust into. Although at times this is a difficult book to follow, the reader does eventually find connections between the people’s stories within the pages. You feel sympathy for these youngsters and, at times, wonder why no one realized they were in need of help. It’s a fascinating look at the human psyche. Admittedly, it’s not an easy book to read and you do have to pay attention to what the author is saying. Otherwise, you may miss something that will leave the story up in the air later on in the book. Fascinating, intriguing and eye-opening … this isn’t a book for everyone, but for those who enjoy a deep read, you will find this book marvelous.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Josh

    How to review a book like this? The language of this novel is beautiful. The story is dark, unsettling, touching, at times almost surreal, and I found it to be gripping in its own quiet, forceful way. Looking back, I can see where some of the less favorable reviews are coming from, but I personally disagree with their interpretations. This isn't a traditional novel. There isn't one protagonist at the center of the story. There isn't one storyline. However, the stories are linked and they ultimat How to review a book like this? The language of this novel is beautiful. The story is dark, unsettling, touching, at times almost surreal, and I found it to be gripping in its own quiet, forceful way. Looking back, I can see where some of the less favorable reviews are coming from, but I personally disagree with their interpretations. This isn't a traditional novel. There isn't one protagonist at the center of the story. There isn't one storyline. However, the stories are linked and they ultimately work together as a sort of collage - taken all together, they don't "say" one particular thing, but they create a definite unified whole, a whole that is crafted with skill and insight. This is a book about "Why?" It's a book about longing and desperation and fear and humanity. The book definitely offers a particular outlook and focuses on particular aspects of the characters lives, but I am left impressed with the depth, complexity, and resonance of this novel. The purpose of the book is not to explain everything, it's not even to tie up every loose end - but these snapshots into characters lives are not left wanting by what is not on the page. I won't claim it's perfect, or that every reader will like it, but, in my assessment, it's an impressive work of dark beauty and resounding humanity. It's one of those books that stays with you after you've turned the last page.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Glenda

    I won a copy of this book on Goodreads First Reads. This story starts with the disappearance of 12-year-old Leonora – a good girl, who does everything right, a cautious and obedient young lady who has been warned about stranger danger. But it doesn't matter, she disappears anyway. But this is not a book about Leonora, whose story is only one small part of the novel. Rather, it's about all kinds of "missing" children-–children who have grown up, those who have gone missing emotionally or physically I won a copy of this book on Goodreads First Reads. This story starts with the disappearance of 12-year-old Leonora – a good girl, who does everything right, a cautious and obedient young lady who has been warned about stranger danger. But it doesn't matter, she disappears anyway. But this is not a book about Leonora, whose story is only one small part of the novel. Rather, it's about all kinds of "missing" children-–children who have grown up, those who have gone missing emotionally or physically, those who have been exploited or who have grown alien to themselves and their families. Their lives are sad and desperate and although it seems like something could be salvaged from them, nothing ever is. This is a book about trying to find one’s place in a careless world. There are so many characters in the book, it is hard to keep track of them and for a while it is very disjointed. Many of the characters' stories start to overlap, but some stories are left hanging and other connections made me wonder why they even mattered. The author does a beautiful job painting a picture with her words - there is a lot of rich, descriptive imagery. It is not a book that leaves you feeling good at the end. Just an OK read for me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    CK

    I'm having a hard time getting through this one. I want to believe there will be some redeeming quality to the work if I just stick with it. I like the concept of daring us to look at the realities of life. Braunstein writes in such a way that you feel the emotion and will drained out of you, putting you in the shoes of her characters who cling to the barest threads of hope. It's an effective technique, BUT it's tiring. I haven't the energy left to deal with the constant barrage of new character I'm having a hard time getting through this one. I want to believe there will be some redeeming quality to the work if I just stick with it. I like the concept of daring us to look at the realities of life. Braunstein writes in such a way that you feel the emotion and will drained out of you, putting you in the shoes of her characters who cling to the barest threads of hope. It's an effective technique, BUT it's tiring. I haven't the energy left to deal with the constant barrage of new characters that still have no connection to each other. The lives of these characters are necessarily dull, numbing themselves from their circumstances. Telling only one or two of their stories would therefore bore the reader. I don't really know how I would have written it differently, but it seems there has to be a balance somewhere. As I type this I realize that making the book more palatable would not be true to the stories being told, it would just make the reader feel better. Ugh Buck up and finish the book, life isn't a fairy tale. Update: I couldn't do it. I read 90% of the book...so my kindle tells me. I want a book to teach, inspire or entertain. This book did none of those things for me.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Tressa

    I received this book from Good Reads' "first reads" giveaway program. This story really grips you from the first page and doesn't let go, even at the end. It's not a "mystery" at all, but the writing is suspenseful and you want to keep reading to find out what happens. The best way to describe this book is to refer to the phrase on the back cover which explains the characters and story in a way that the characters are like broken pieces of glass from a shattered object that can never be pieced ba I received this book from Good Reads' "first reads" giveaway program. This story really grips you from the first page and doesn't let go, even at the end. It's not a "mystery" at all, but the writing is suspenseful and you want to keep reading to find out what happens. The best way to describe this book is to refer to the phrase on the back cover which explains the characters and story in a way that the characters are like broken pieces of glass from a shattered object that can never be pieced back together. If I have one complaint it's that the time period isn't immediately clear from the characters depictions of their surroundings. It would have been nice to know in what time period things occured. Also, except for Leonora, there weren't any obvious breaks in the character storylines, so it took a little while to see which character you were reading about. All in all, this is my seventh book that I've received from the Good Reads giveaways program and it's been far and away, the best one.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Coleen

    1/29/11 - This one is hard to review. I wanted to like it. The cover is intriguing. The book description is intriguing. The writing itself -- the structure & beauty of the words -- is quite good. But the overall structure & attempt to understand this book just put me off. The writing style reminded me a bit of Nicole Krauss -- beautiful, almost poetic writing, with a lot of unwritten & underlying meaning behind the words -- but it lacked so much as well. I had trouble keeping track of the differ 1/29/11 - This one is hard to review. I wanted to like it. The cover is intriguing. The book description is intriguing. The writing itself -- the structure & beauty of the words -- is quite good. But the overall structure & attempt to understand this book just put me off. The writing style reminded me a bit of Nicole Krauss -- beautiful, almost poetic writing, with a lot of unwritten & underlying meaning behind the words -- but it lacked so much as well. I had trouble keeping track of the different characters. I had trouble orienting myself in the story's timeline. It took me quite a while to soldier on through this book because the storyline didn't engage me enough to want to sit down and read a big chunk at once. And then once I'd get back to it, I'd be confused all over again because of the aforementioned troubles. I think the LibraryThing reviewers who have posted before me have accurately nailed it with their reviews & have said it better than I can. If Braunstein could narrow down her plot, I think she would be much more well-received with this debut novel.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Angie McCrae

    An intriguing story. In some regards it was well written, but in others it was difficult to follow. It did not seem to have a main character, but instead many secondary characters who lived in both the past and the present. The book is written in short vignettes that jump back and forth between each character and make the story feel disjointed. In fact, so disjointed that it was not until I was almost finished with the book that I realized the characters were in different time periods and not al An intriguing story. In some regards it was well written, but in others it was difficult to follow. It did not seem to have a main character, but instead many secondary characters who lived in both the past and the present. The book is written in short vignettes that jump back and forth between each character and make the story feel disjointed. In fact, so disjointed that it was not until I was almost finished with the book that I realized the characters were in different time periods and not all in the present day. The conclusion is extraordinary. For me, it made the book worth reading. It is then that you realize Leonora is the main character and had been all along. I only wish that the author had incorporated her throughout the book more often and in such a way that you realized her importance sooner rather than later. The ending brings everything together and you see that all of the characters are connected, but while I was reading the book it was very confusing and displaced.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Jeannine

    Despite the strange title (the librarian even commented on it as I was checking it out) this is beautifully written book. The language is worthy consolation for the often dark and sad subject matter. The stories of the various people in the novel are, at times, intricate and compelling, but, as so often in contemporary fiction, the story drags and stalls over some of the darkest scenes which didn't seem to add much to the narrative (maybe contemporary authors feel they have to put in ugly things Despite the strange title (the librarian even commented on it as I was checking it out) this is beautifully written book. The language is worthy consolation for the often dark and sad subject matter. The stories of the various people in the novel are, at times, intricate and compelling, but, as so often in contemporary fiction, the story drags and stalls over some of the darkest scenes which didn't seem to add much to the narrative (maybe contemporary authors feel they have to put in ugly things to be taken seriously? These scenes just seem so random). A good book to check out from the library, but not one I'll be rereading. As I finished the book, I felt a little let down. Every time I open a new novel I hope I'm entering into something more literary and meaty than "chick lit" and beach reading, but a little less of the ugly and wildly esoteric. Alas, they are hard to find, and it didn't happen here. Ah well.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Pat

    Sarah Braunstein accrued a noteworthy honor in the literary world when she was selected by National Book Award finalists as one of the five best fiction writers under the age of 35. The Sweet Relief of Missing Children is her debut novel. I thought this would be compelling book given her credentials; however, it was oddly confusing. There are numerous characters and time lines that I found difficult to keep straight. A flow chart would have been helpful in sorting out the backgrounds of the paren Sarah Braunstein accrued a noteworthy honor in the literary world when she was selected by National Book Award finalists as one of the five best fiction writers under the age of 35. The Sweet Relief of Missing Children is her debut novel. I thought this would be compelling book given her credentials; however, it was oddly confusing. There are numerous characters and time lines that I found difficult to keep straight. A flow chart would have been helpful in sorting out the backgrounds of the parents and children and their relationships to one another. Just when I became engaged with a character, the story line and time frame would abruptly change. The sad and violent subject matter in this book should make a reader's heart hurt, but it just didn't happen for me. That said, Sarah Braunstein's descriptive prose is good. I would read her second book given the glimpses of talent evidenced in this one.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Jamie

    I have heard everyone raving about this awesome book so I decided to give it a shot. And I have to say it's a decent book, this book is really a bunch of interconnected short stories. It takes a bit of reading to start figuring out how all the characters fit together, but once you do, it's easy to keep track of. Based on the title, I thought this was going to be a mystery about a missing child. There is a missing child, but it's more a story about how we get "lost" and give up ourselves and our I have heard everyone raving about this awesome book so I decided to give it a shot. And I have to say it's a decent book, this book is really a bunch of interconnected short stories. It takes a bit of reading to start figuring out how all the characters fit together, but once you do, it's easy to keep track of. Based on the title, I thought this was going to be a mystery about a missing child. There is a missing child, but it's more a story about how we get "lost" and give up ourselves and our dreams to appease others. I felt that there were almost too many characters, it would have been easier to get into if there were less people involved. I finished it because by the time I figured out all the relationships I was halfway done and wanted to know what happened, but in the end I would not describe it as a particularly fun book to read.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Therese

    This book has some of the most intimate, brilliant character studies I have ever read. Compulsively readable, words used that take you straight into the moment. Part of the reason it's so readable is that it feels like you're building to something great. Intertwined stories and characters, time backwards and forwards. So, fair warning. This book is an example of the journey mattering much more than the destination. Answers, explanations, they never come. And a few would have been really apprecia This book has some of the most intimate, brilliant character studies I have ever read. Compulsively readable, words used that take you straight into the moment. Part of the reason it's so readable is that it feels like you're building to something great. Intertwined stories and characters, time backwards and forwards. So, fair warning. This book is an example of the journey mattering much more than the destination. Answers, explanations, they never come. And a few would have been really appreciated. I just so BADLY wanted it all to tie together, to wrap nice and neat. But that just isn't the way of writerly books anymore. They give you a character, situation, and then just let it all float away to land where it may. Luckily, this writer had to skill to make all that nebulous floating exciting and rewarding, even if it all ended with a deflation instead of a pop.

  27. 5 out of 5

    T. Coughlin

    I just finished this novel and what I liked most about it was the writing. I thought the author took care with her sentences and prose weaving her stories together. I can't say that sometimes the novel wasn't a bit confusing, as I tried to keep all the missing children straight in my head, but I will say, word for word, sentence for sentence this was a beautiful novel. Goldie was my favorite character, very tragic, as most of the characters are in this novel. I recommend this novel to someone wh I just finished this novel and what I liked most about it was the writing. I thought the author took care with her sentences and prose weaving her stories together. I can't say that sometimes the novel wasn't a bit confusing, as I tried to keep all the missing children straight in my head, but I will say, word for word, sentence for sentence this was a beautiful novel. Goldie was my favorite character, very tragic, as most of the characters are in this novel. I recommend this novel to someone who isn't looking for a page turner, someone who might read before bed and look at the work for it's complicated prose. I enjoyed the novel. I may even read it again as I now know how all the characters connect to one another. I would would read more from this author. She knows her craft.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Audrey

    This writer can create some beautiful word pictures, she can even compose sentences that have the power to break the reader's heart. But, I have to give this book a low rating because it was so disjointed and had plot lines that just meandered off somewhere, never to be found again the big mystery in the book is never fully solved which always irritates me. There were so many characters and their story would just be getting interesting and it would abruptly end and another chapter with yet other c This writer can create some beautiful word pictures, she can even compose sentences that have the power to break the reader's heart. But, I have to give this book a low rating because it was so disjointed and had plot lines that just meandered off somewhere, never to be found again the big mystery in the book is never fully solved which always irritates me. There were so many characters and their story would just be getting interesting and it would abruptly end and another chapter with yet other characters would begin and then you would return to someone's story and try to figure out how all it related to the rest of the book and the jumping back and forth in time was confusing. This book was so full of despair and sadness that it made me almost not want to get up in the morning, not really what I look for in a book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Kasandra

    Though I am giving this 2 stars, I really did enjoy Braunstein's sense of observation, detailed, keen and humorous. She's also very good at the interior monologue. But this novel doesn't hang together very well. There's so much jumping back and forth through time, as well as from character and story to another character and another story, that I felt disjointed and confused through most of it. It was only the last 2 parts that I felt were strong and started to tie things together.... but overall Though I am giving this 2 stars, I really did enjoy Braunstein's sense of observation, detailed, keen and humorous. She's also very good at the interior monologue. But this novel doesn't hang together very well. There's so much jumping back and forth through time, as well as from character and story to another character and another story, that I felt disjointed and confused through most of it. It was only the last 2 parts that I felt were strong and started to tie things together.... but overall, there were still far too many loose ends and unanswered questions to make this feel finished. The writing itself? Good. But not novel-worthy. I'd read her first in a short story in The New Yorker, and this feels like it would have done better as a collection of linked short stories, perhaps, instead of as a novel.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rae

    I would give this book a 3.5, if allowed. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style, and found Ms. Braunstein highly imaginative. However, I found it difficult to keep track of the various characters. I may bear some responsibility, as I read this book over many short reading bursts. Even after having completed the book, I don't think I could connect all of the characters correctly, if tested. So don't test me. Just saying. The subject matter is somewhat disturbing, but the story is an intriguing we I would give this book a 3.5, if allowed. I thoroughly enjoyed the writing style, and found Ms. Braunstein highly imaginative. However, I found it difficult to keep track of the various characters. I may bear some responsibility, as I read this book over many short reading bursts. Even after having completed the book, I don't think I could connect all of the characters correctly, if tested. So don't test me. Just saying. The subject matter is somewhat disturbing, but the story is an intriguing weave of time and space. I found the book a pleasure, and easy to read. I would recommend the book to those who enjoy contemporary, descriptive prose and don't shy from controversial subject matter.

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