Monday, November 22, 2010

Missing Persons - rob mclennan

I had the pleasure of reading this short novel after meeting and getting to know rob. As some may be aware, he was recently tearing around the downtown of St. Catharines for the GBRS.

We were talking at dinner, and I mentioned that I do not like to write dialogue. Whenever I attempt to write it in, I find that it looks tacky and forced. I always feel that it looks too stark on a page of beautifully woven words, as bright light after a night of rainfall. rob mentioned that he had written a short novel that contained no dialogue, and I was immediately interested. To write a short story like this, I had done, but to write a novel? Even a short one seemed like it would be too difficult.

Of course, rob found a way. The absence of dialogue calls both to the absence of things in the life of our protagonist, specifically someone that she can talk to. She seems to be completely alone although surrounded by an adequate amount of people, yet there is very little that she can say.

Missing Persons floats both through the prairies of Saskatchewan and the most delicate time in a young girl's life. Alberta, named for the home that her family never reached, has lost her father, and the novel stretches like the land they live on through the trials and tribulations of growing up without a father, and growing up in general. The land itself becomes as important as Alberta, with both of them slipping from the grasp of the reader. Alberta is as any young teenage girl begins, full of confusion, hate, and the desire to portray herself as original. She is still a slate waiting to have a true story. The land that rob embodies in these pages acts the same. With so much description, we are never fully invited into the logistics of where Alberta resides. We have loose facts and poetics, but no hard facts to answer the question of where she really is. I think that this is the most important part of the text. Alberta becomes the land that she lives on in the sense that both are impressionable, while still holding true to the core of what they really are.

The novel is written in what I can only describe as short bursts, of the present day and memories. The style is completely poetic and beautiful, and in the omission of residence the text breathes itself. A dreamlike and fictional quality takes over through the tones created, which is impressive considering the subject matter's truly average existence. Somehow rob manages to take the mundane task of growing up, hardships or not, and make it into something beautiful and unique.

I think the most interesting point of the novel is the repetition throughout the chapters and divisions of how much time has past since Alberta's father had died. Time does not exist quite in the way that it is supposed to, and instead time begins only after his death. I think this is fascinating for two reasons. Firstly, it seems that after his death, a new time begins. With death, this is surely plausible, as those left behind must find a new way of surviving, and this method can no longer be the way that it was before that person left this earth. The second is that throughout Alberta's story, she tries to find herself, as any young girl does. Even though she craves to be individual, she finds herself living in time that refers to the memory of her father, therefore allowing him to still have a protective force over her. This is the most beautiful part of the novel for me.

I give this novel a 4/5. It was a beautiful and short novel. Every single word used is poetic and gripping, and the story is one that can easily be related to.


  1. very lovely & thanks! very appreciate yr attention to my little book; though i would argue that the geography is completely there, but you have to be able to know how to read it; & is the perceived lack of specific geography a problem? there are those who have figured it out, completely, by reading deeply into; there are clues scattered all over,

  2. i realized that when i went through it again! i did some research on it, and i am impressed by the clues that are throughout the text. i think that it becomes more interesting because i do not know much about the geography, but others who would be familiar with it would be able to distinguish the surroundings. even though i was unable to figure it out without searching deeper into it, i dont think that it made the text any less accessible.
    again, thank you for the brilliant read.