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If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister's Story of…

If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister's Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation

by Janine Latus

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A biography written about Janine's sister Amy, who is murdered by a guy she met online and came to live with her and took advantage of her. The sisters have one thing in common- both have poor self images due to a father that let them know how they looked was the most important thing a girl should do. ( )
  camplakejewel | Sep 21, 2017 |
This book is well written. It tells the story of Janine Latus, and her sister's death.

This book will leave you numb and broken. ( )
  shannon.dolgos | Sep 5, 2017 |
"But why don't they just leave?" This was the question that came out of one of my students' mouths as she picked up on common theme throughout our literature--unhappy women stuck in physically or verbally abusive relationships.

For many people who have never experienced domestic violence firsthand, this question is the first one that comes to mind. The answer--to get out--is so obvious that they cannot comprehend the victim's point of view. Janine Latus's account takes one step forward in answering that question. Her emotional memoir gives readers insight into the psychological warfare that goes hand-in-hand with domestic violence.

Yes, it is true that the book jacket makes it seem like "If I am Missing or Dead" will read like a true crime story about Amy Latus' destructive and ultimately fatal relationship. By the second chapter, it is apparent that the book is actually about Janine, and it often reads like a personal catharsis, working out the emotional struggle of the author in ways that seem more fit for a therapy session than a biography. I don't foresee the book winning any great literary awards for writing style, but I think the self-reflective style is exactly what makes "If I Am Missing or Dead" such a valuable resource. The honest and unfettered voice of the victim is so rarely heard.

After reading this book, I can't imagine anyone asking, "Why didn't they just leave?" Janine talks about her past in such detail that the reader is transported back in time--to the cabin on the lake, to the hotel room with Kurt, to her family's Christmas... In these moments, one has no choice but to feel Janine's emotions: the shame and fear of sexual assault, the delightful anxiety of an edgy relationship, the desperate desire for control and stability. There is not one aspect of domestic violence that Janine leaves unexplored--neither physical, psychological, nor social. The intimate first person narration shows the dangerous lure of victim-blaming (and self-blame), of unfair gender expectations and power dynamics, of social pressure to maintain appearances no matter the cost. In the face of this, readers can begin to understand the true toll of domestic violence and see why women like Amy and Janine don't just "get out."

No, the book isn't about Amy, but that isn't the point. For the billions of men and women who are or will be victims of domestic violence, the most important message isn't about Amy's death. The takeaway is--or should be--that women like Janine fight everyday for their lives, for their freedom, for their safety... and for hope. ( )
  akerner1 | Jan 31, 2017 |
"Lots of things happen between couples, and nobody needs to know. I don't need to air my dirty laundry. I don't need to tell."

But if her sister Amy had told she may have been alive today.

Many people have criticized this book, whether it be for the writing style being "disjointed" or "inconclusive", for the book book having been marketed as what they thought was true crime, for the author's blindness to her own similar situation while encouraging her sister to get out of her relationship, or for it just being "too whiny".
As far as the writing style, I liked it. I could only put this book down reluctantly until I finished it. I thought it well written, and it was written the way most people think. Our thoughts are not always jointed, especially when living in stressful situations---the writing expressed well how the author was feeling not at the time she wrote it, but at the time she was experiencing the given situations. It was not "whiny". It was an honest memoir, but unless you have been in the same situation you may not realize that.
"If you see yourself in this book, you are not alone. I thought I was. Amy thought she was. But we aren't".
I thought I was alone...Unfortunately, thousands of women know all too well what the author have gone through firsthand, and unfortunately many of them do wind up like her sister. But fortunately some of us get out of these situations to live better lives.
The author having been blind to her own situation while encouraging her sister to get out of a bad relationship is just typical of being in that type relationship---the dominant person makes the other person feel uncertain of everything in their own life: their relationship, their situation, their security, their own thoughts even. Which is why she also would think everything was her own fault, rather than the fault of a neurotic, insecure, jealous husband. And at the end she did finally leave him.

As for this being marketed as true crime, the publisher have more control over that than the author.
Although it was a true crime, the book is not about the crime so much as the relationships that the sisters had with the men in their lives (including their father) which were mainly dysfunctional and the effects of the those relationships.
But that did not take away from the fact that this was a very good book worth reading. ( )
  TheCelticSelkie | Jun 11, 2016 |
After reading many reviews that sharply criticized the author for making this book more about her story than the story of her sister, I was prepared to hate it, but I was surprised that I enjoyed reading it. The story is sad, but Latus does a great job of telling the story of an entire lifetime (hers) and the correlations between the two relationships (hers & her sisters). The book was easy to follow and thought-provoking... I feel like I know both of these women. I hope many women read this book and find the strength to get out of their abusive relationship. And I hope abusers read this story & realize they need to change. ( )
1 vote cobygirl517 | Mar 14, 2016 |
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Thou shalt not be a victim. Thou shalt not be a perpetrator. Above all, thou shalt not be a bystander.
— An inscription at the Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C.

Most of us would rather claim to have always been perfect than to admit how much we've grown.
From Blood Done Sign My Name by Tim Tyson
For Amy
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July 9, 2002

Two months ago I left my husband, and now, for the first time in years, I am neither scared nor angry.
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Book description
Janine Latus recounts her family's search for her younger sister, Amy, and the subsequent trial of her former boyfriend Ron Ball for the murder.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0743296532, Hardcover)

In April 2002, Janine Latus's youngest sister, Amy, wrote a note and taped it to the inside of her desk drawer. Today Ron Ball and I are romantically involved, it read, but I fear I have placed myself at risk in a variety of ways. Based on his criminal past, writing this out just seems like the smart thing to do. If I am missing or dead this obviously has not protected me...

That same spring Janine Latus was struggling to leave her marriage -- a marriage to a handsome and successful man. A marriage others emulated. A marriage in which she felt she could do nothing right and everything wrong. A marriage in which she felt afraid, controlled, inadequate, and trapped.

Ten weeks later, Janine Latus had left her marriage. She was on a business trip to the East Coast, savoring her freedom, attending a work conference, when she received a call from her sister Jane asking if she'd heard from Amy. Immediately, Janine's blood ran cold. Amy was missing.

Helicopters went up and search dogs went out. Coworkers and neighbors and family members plastered missing posters with Amy's picture across the county. It took more than two weeks to find Amy's body, wrapped in a tarpaulin and buried at a building site. It took nearly two years before her killer, her former boyfriend Ron Ball, was sentenced for her murder.

Amy died in silent fear and pain. Haunted by this, Janine Latus turned her journalistic eye inward. How, she wondered, did two seemingly well-adjusted, successful women end up in strings of physically or emotionally abusive relationships with men? If I Am Missing or Dead is a heart-wrenching journey of discovery as Janine Latus traces the roots of her own -- and her sister's -- victimization with unflinching candor. This beautifully written memoir will move readers from the first to the last page. At once a confession, a call to break the cycle of abuse, and a deeply felt love letter to her baby sister, Amy Lynne Latus, If I Am Missing or Dead is an unforgettable read.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:36 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

In April 2002, Janine Latus's youngest sister, Amy, wrote a note and taped it to the inside of her desk drawer: "Today Ron Ball and I are romantically involved, but I fear I have placed myself at risk in a variety of ways." That same spring Janine was struggling to leave her marriage, to a handsome and successful man--a marriage in which she felt afraid, controlled, inadequate, and trapped. Ten weeks later, Janine had left her marriage when she learned Amy was missing. It took more than two weeks to find Amy's body, and two years to convict her former boyfriend for her murder. Haunted, Janine turned her journalistic eye inward. How did two seemingly well-adjusted, successful women end up in physically or emotionally abusive relationships with men? The resulting book traces the roots of her own--and her sister's--victimization with unflinching candor, a heart-wrenching journey of discovery.--From publisher description.… (more)

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