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The Sweet Relief of Missing Children: A Novel

by Sarah Braunstein

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12424162,868 (3.06)9
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, listeners find deeper interconnections between these stories and growing clues about Leonora.… (more)

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Won from Firstreads. Thank you Goodreads!

I felt a little bit disoriented after reading this book. The jumps through time and from character to character were sometimes hard to follow. By the end, I did see how they were all interconnected, but the trip was not easy to follow. It seemed like a lot of little stories crammed into one book...the childhoods of many different people. More specifically, one defining moment in the childhoods of multiple people. I have read and enjoyed other books that had multiple points of view and stories, but have never finished one with the disorientation I feel after this book. I probably would read more by this author.
  sochri | Nov 21, 2017 |
No real closure or connection between the narratives. Everyone is connected somehow, but not in any profoundly obvious way.
Basically the feeling I come away with from this book is that we're all human. We're all insulated in our minds and lives and that no body knows what they're doing.
There's a constant strain of desire and nostalgia throughout. ( )
  Kari.Hall | Jul 15, 2013 |
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. ( )
  admccrae | Apr 3, 2013 |
I forced myself to read this book after successfully avoiding doing so three times prior (twice in print and once on audiobook) because Sarah Braunstein is the featured author this time around in the Maine Women Write Book Club that I attend. After my fourth attempt, I did (force myself to) finish it. It's not an interesting enough story, in that I was curious to see how it all turned out, and the writing was pretty good, but in the end, I wasn't glad I read it. It was disturbing to me on many levels and because the subject matter disturbed me more than it entertained me, I can't recommend this book. ( )
  kmcwrites | Feb 19, 2012 |
This review was written for LibraryThing Early Reviewers.
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. ( )
1 vote blakefraina | Oct 2, 2011 |
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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, listeners find deeper interconnections between these stories and growing clues about Leonora.

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