Friday, August 19, 2011

Lindsay Harrison's "Missing"

Lindsay Harrison was born in 1985 and grew up in Massachusetts. She attended Brown University and Columbia School of the Arts. Missing is her first book. She lives in Brooklyn, New York, where she is currently at work on a novel.

Harrison applied the “Page 99 Test” to Missing and reported the following:
If one were to follow Ford Madox Ford’s advice and flip to page 99 of Missing, he or she would witness my twenty-year old self desperate to escape an unbearable reality by smoking weed on the night of my mother’s memorial service.

Page 99 serves as a turning point between two halves of the book. The opening chapters chronicle my family’s frantic search for my mother, who disappeared one morning in the spring of 2006. For forty days, my two older brothers and I met with detectives, hung missing person flyers, chased false leads and questionable sightings, and hoped against hope for a happy reunion. Page 99 concludes the fifth chapter and embodies our heartbreak: our mother’s lifeless body had been found in circumstances far worse than anything our darkest fears had prepared us for.

After packing up our mom’s apartment and weathering her memorial service, my brothers and I stood in our father’s kitchen, wondering what we were supposed to do next. As a daughter and a young woman, I am grateful to have survived the events leading up to page 99 of my memoir. As the author of an unwieldy narrative, I was daunted by writing page 100 and all that would follow. Shaping the narrative of grief and recovery proved much harder than relaying the opening story of a missing person search.

While the first half of the book centers on the search for a missing woman, the second half tackles a more nebulous kind of search: how to cope with the loss of a parent while standing on the verge of adulthood. Page 99 marks the end of one life-altering search and the beginning of one that proves to be more terrifying, yet ultimately more satisfying, to both the daughter and the writer in me.

Page 99 Excerpt:
After most of the guests had left, I went down to the beach with a few friends who were spending the night. We sat on the overturned hull of a dinghy and smoked pot. Cassidy abstained, but she blocked the wind and lit the bowl for me. The horizon disappeared in the dark and the stars jagged into the water. I got to that place—if only for a second—where the past forty days became a figment of my warped imagination. And then someone said she was freezing, and it was real again, and we went back to the house, my bare feet tracking sand all over the floor. Chris, Brad, Dad, and Michele were all standing in the kitchen. The room swayed as if I were standing on a dock. My friends went up to bed. The only fixed points were my brothers—both of them crying for the first time—and my dad, leaning against the refrigerator with his hands jammed in his pockets, his tie loosened, and his sleeves pushed up. I thought I saw him crying too, or maybe it was just that everything was reeling as I started to come down from my high.

“You’ve been smoking pot,” Dad said.

“No I haven’t.”

“I can smell it.”

“Okay, I have.”

He kneaded his hands together. I’d let him down but I didn’t care. All I wanted to know was when I could get my mom back and make all this go away. And if that weren’t possible, getting stoned and pretending I’d hallucinated this whole nightmare struck me as the least of our worries.
Learn more about the book and author at Lindsay Harrison's website.

--Marshal Zeringue