Book Review: The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield

Written by Sherry Joyce

Sophie Littlefield Interview

Sophie Littlefield

Something a reader looks for, but does not always find, is a book unique in both its setting and story. What makes The Missing Place a compelling read is not only the setting in the oil fields of North Dakota, but the complexity of the two characters in the story, Colleen and Shay, as they search for their sons who have disappeared.

With each of their sons missing, these two very different women are brought together in a dire situation to find out what happened in a town where others have died on oil rigs or suffered terrible injuries while working on high-risk, often exceptionally well-paying jobs. Together the two mothers confront everything:  from oil rights and Indian reservation rights to OSHA as a looming threat with the power to shut down rigs. There is plenty to question about the companies who own these rigs and the men who work in the face of danger everyday.

Colleen, a wealthy woman from Massachusetts, with secrets about her own son, Paul, is suddenly having to cohabitate in a small trailer with Shay, a no-nonsense woman who has survived through life on her own terms with grit and determination. Shay is on the same quest to find the answers to how her own son, Taylor, disappeared while working with Paul on Hunter-Cole’s rigs.

MissingPlacecoverA first glance, some readers might shy away from a story about two young men who disappeared while working on oil rigs in a town with few esthetic redeeming qualities. The weather at times so harsh it rivals the Alaskan frontier, causing you to shiver against the biting wind and drifting snow. However, as chilled as you feel by wondering if these two young men are still alive, you become engrossed in a uniquely compelling story that propels you forward because you want to believe against the odds and hope.

Colleen and Shay have nothing in common except their own terror while trying to uncover what has happened to their missing sons. They search for common ground in how to pursue strategies to find out what happened to Paul and Taylor while irritating each other to the point of exasperation and total exhaustion. However, through thinly veiled tolerance and complete frustration with one another, they manage to uncover surprising clues that led to the disappearance.

A character-driven story, where you struggle to like and accept Colleen and Shay, you nonetheless feel empathy for what they are going through, and with their sense of despair so deep, it unravels humanity to its core. However, The Missing Place, at its heart, is a mystery with plenty of suspense and plot twists that are surprising.  

Littlefield’s exceptional writing creates unusual insight into women’s relationships, as Shay and Colleen are each forced to form an alliance with the other while neither can conjure up a modicum of acceptance. The things not spoken aloud create considerable tension due to their extreme differences in personalities. Not knowing if their sons are alive, forces both women to forge an unlikely alliance, slowly breaking down the facades each has built to protect themselves from truths in their own lives.

Like many small towns, there are good people who have adapted to difficult circumstances and others who will do anything to cover up the truth. Set in Lawton, North Dakota, where the oil boom changed everything, this book is an edge-of-your-seat story whose characters will live long after you have turned the last page.

                                    –Sherry Joyce, Author of The Dordogne Deceptio

Meet Sophie Littlefield and discuss her book at the National Reading Group Month Event
 Co-sponsored by WNBA-SF and Litquake 2014.

Mysteries at Opera Plaza! The Thrill of Shared Reading

October 11, 2014, Saturday, 2:00 -4:00 pm

Books, Inc., Opera Plaza 601 Van Ness Ave., SF 94107

SPECIAL OFFER: The Missing Place will be for sale and signing by the author days before its official launch October 14!

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