Title: The Sweet Relief of Missing Children
Author: Sarah Braunstein
Release Date: February 28, 2011
Publisher: W.W. Norton & Co.
Genre: Literary Fiction
Rating: 4 out of 5
Sarah Braunstein’s debut is about missing children - from Leonora, a twelve-year-old girl who is abducted from New York City, to Judith, who is there physically but missing in spirit when she marries young and loses herself as a consequence. Paul is a boy on the run from an abusive stepfather, and has trouble finding a place to settle down, somewhere that he can feel safe. All of these children are missing in their own unique ways.
The Sweet Relief of Missing Children is a beautifully written meditation on pain and the difficulty of coping with all the complexity and monotony of everyday life. Each of these characters is vividly written; they each experience their own unique suffering, capturing the reader’s attention and keeping it for the duration of the book. The characters are drawn so sympathetically and realistically that readers will have to remind themselves that they are simply characters in a novel. Braunstein paints each of them with such loving care, it’s clear she really felt for Leonora, Paul, and Judith.
Sarah Braunstein’s debut novel is a intricately written novel with lush prose. Her writing is vivid and really inspires the reader’s imagination. I was very impressed with her ability to manipulate language and her creativity with words. She is clearly a talented author with a bright future in front of her.
The stories of the “missing” children are told separately, in an interlocking format, though they do occasionally overlap. At times, though, this can be frustrating, especially if the reader gravitates towards one of the characters specifically. Additionally, there are a lot of characters in this book; because each story is fleshed out so fully and thoughtfully, each protagonist has a lot of people they interact with. As a result, the number of characters in this book can become overwhelming and difficult to keep straight. The fact that the book jumps points of view and back and forth in time only exacerbates this issue.
The Sweet Relief of Missing Children is an unsettling novel that can be difficult at times. However, Braunstein’s writing is so lush and her characters so amazingly written that readers who pick up this book will get lost in these meandering stories, hoping to find some semblance of happiness for the characters, once and for all, in its pages.