The backstory: The Sweet Relief of Missing Children was one of the National Book Award's 5 Under 35 selections in 2010.
The basics: I really like the description I found in my library's catalog: "Two seemingly separate stories from different points in time interconnect and provide clues to the disappearance of a missing New York City girl."
My thoughts: If you read my tumblr, then you were privy to my love fest of quotations as I was reading this novel. It's certainly the best novel I've read in 2011 (yes, I adored One Day, which is a lovely novel, but this one is better, and I enjoyed it just as much.) This novel begs to be re-read and re-appreciated as more layers come out. It won't appeal to all readers, but it's original, ambitious and lyrical. Watch out Jennifer Egan, Sarah Braunstein is coming for your readers.
Although the novel jumps around among characters, I was always enthralled. Typically, I'll enjoy one aspect of a split narrative, but in this novel, I didn't play favorites; I simply wanted to read. The Sweet Relief of Missing Children is the rare novel that renders me speechless. I can proclaim my love for it, but I've struggled with articulating why I loved it so much. Compared with the uniqueness of Braunstein's voice and story, my attempts to describe her work seem even more pedestrian. The short of it: just read it. Because characters think things like, "she understood that you could be too curious but you couldn't be too pretty." And Braunstein defies her own truth, "everything gets ordinary after awhile." Trust me, her writing doesn't.
Favorite passage: "Language was a net with holes too big to catch what he could say to her." See more of my favorite parts of this novel on its Kindle highlights page.
The verdict: I am completely in awe of Sarah Braunstein as both a writer and a storyteller. The scope of this story and these characters is mind boggling to me. To combine a pitch-perfect story with glorious writing is an achievement for any writer, but for a first-time novelist under the age of 35, it's surely the beginning of a long, successful career.
Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)
Length: 363 glorious pages
Publication date: February 28, 2011
Source: I bought it for my Kindle
Treat yourself! Buy The Sweet Relief of Missing Children from Amazon (hardback or Kindle version), The Book Depository, or an independent bookstore.
As an Amazon affiliate, I receive a small commission when you make a purchase through any of the above links. Thank you!