“Most of us have, at some time or other, discovered in ourselves a readiness to stray far, ever so far, on the wrong road.”
Boy Still Missing, written by John Searles, book editor at Cosmopolitan, is a stunning debut, written by an author with a deft hand for characterization and an outstanding ear for dialogue.
The book begins in June 1971, with the main character, 16-year-old Dominick Pindle, riding with his mother and her best friend looking for his Dad. Seems that Dad likes staying out until all hours in the barsm carousing with other women, and rarely coming home. When a search of all the most likely nightspots yields nothing, Dominick’s mother, after much soul searching, decides to look for him at the home of the woman she thinks he is having an affair with, Edie Kramer.
Sure enough, they find Dominick’s father’s car close to Edie’s house. Dominick is dispatched to go inside and find his father. Once inside, Dominick finds himself so greatly spellbound by Edie’s charms after she kisses him that he impulsively promises to do her a favor one day. She tells him his father isn’t there, but on the way out, he sees his father hiding in the bedroom. Dominick, bound by his promise to Edie and smitten with the older woman, doesn’t tell his mother. In doing so, he sets in motion a chain of events that will affect his young life in unimaginable and catastrophic ways.
You all too often hear the phrase “intelligent page turner”, but it really holds true for this book. With prose like, “Only when I’m up in that room alone do I think about the rest. The way the world pinballed on me that year. And the way events aligned like stars, forever reshaping the pattern of my life,” and, “Thoughts I spend all year pushing away tumble forward, and I have to hold my breath to shut out the stale air, the memories, the regrets. If only I hadn’t kissed Edie that night. If only I hadn’t been so curious about Truman . . .” — Truman is the mysterious half-brother his mother keeps alluding to — you’re hooked from the first page.
The various twists and turns of plot alone could hold your interest enough to finish the book in a sitting or two. This is your quintessential dysfunctional family with intriguing secrets popping up all over the place. Why does Dominick ‘s mother, who claims she can’t afford to heat the house or wear a coat, have a stash of hidden cash — and where did it come from? Who exactly is Truman, Dominick’s supposed half-brother? What’s Edie really up to? Why does Dominick’s mother run away from home and hole herself up in a hotel room? What will be the results of Dominick’s rash promise to his father’s mistress? And where will his curiosity about the skeletons in the family closet take him?
In the end, though, it’s Searles’ character development, especially of his main character, Dominick, that keeps you reading. Set in a small New England working class town in the ’70s, Dominick’s painful process of growing up as he struggles to uncover and cope with his family’s troubled history makes for a gripping coming-of-age story that will stay with you for quite awhile.
However, if you want to enjoy this book, let me give you some advice. Don’t read the reviews at Amazon.com or Barnes and Noble’s website (bn.com). Not that they aren’t accurate in their nearly unanimous praise of this book, but that they give away too much of the story. It’s so much better to discover the secrets of Boy Still Missing yourself.