Tag Archives: The missing place

The Missing Place by Sophie Littlefield

Sophie LittlefieldOn Monday afternoon, our reading group will discuss Sophie Littlefield’s book, The Missing Place. It was my turn to choose a book. I had met Sophie during our Women’s National Book Association event in San Francisco a few months ago, and we met again at Town Center Books in Pleasanton for her book signing.

The book is available on Amazon, Kindle, and audio. Here is how it is described on Amazon:

Set against the backdrop of North Dakota’s oil boom, two very different mothers form an uneasy alliance to find their missing sons in this heartrending and suspenseful novel from the Edgar Award–nominated author of Garden of Stones.

The booming North Dakota oil business is spawning “man camps,” shantytowns full of men hired to work on the rigs, in towns without enough housing to accommodate them. In such twilight spaces, it’s easy for a person to vanish. And when two young men in their first year on the job disappear without a trace, only their mothers believe there’s hope of finding them. Despite reassurances that the police are on the case, the two women think the oil company is covering up the disappearances—and maybe something more.

Colleen, used to her decorous life in a wealthy Massachusetts suburb, is determined to find her son. And hard-bitten Shay, from the wrong side of the California tracks, is the only person in town even willing to deal with her—because she’s on the same mission. Overtaxed by worry, exhaustion, and fear, these two unlikely partners question each other’s methods and motivations, but must work together against the town of strangers if they want any chance of finding their lost boys. But what they uncover could destroy them both…

Sure to please fans of Sandra Brown and Gillian Flynn, The Missing Place is a moving chronicle of survival, determination, and powerful bonds forged in the face of adversity.

The Missing Place

Leave a comment

Filed under Book Recommendations

Smiles in Sophie Littlefield’s The Missing Place

The Missing PlaceI’m reading Sophie Littlefield’s latest novel, The Missing Place. Colleen and Shay, the mothers whose two sons are missing, have frequent disagreements due to their different backgrounds. Littlefield contrasts these characters in a realistic, sometimes humorous, way.  On page 69, they argue outside about how to proceed with searching for their sons. Shay gives in and lets Collen try to get information her way. Colleen prepares to approach two young girls working for the North Dakota oil business. She “faked a pleasant smile and went back inside.” It reminded me of my post on November 7th about smiles.

A few paragraphs later on page 70, Colleen asks the young girls about the sons disappearances. She tries to contain her emotions and maintains the fake smile. Littlefield writes, “Her face felt brittle. She wasn’t sure how much longer she could keep it up. But she’d learned the technique—smile before speaking even when disagreeing—at a conflict-resolution workshop she’d taken back when she was on the PTA regional board, and it really did help. Something about tricking the brain, redirecting one’s impulses. “Did either of you know my son Paul? Paul Mitchell?”

Colleen is right. As babies, the brain is programmed to recognize a smile as friendly. She wanted to win over the young girls so she smiled before speaking to them (a fake smile since she was too worried to genuinely smile). Although Colleen’s face “felt brittle” from holding the smile a long time, one of the girls takes the risk to talk to her.

The Missing Place is tension-filled with interesting characters and an unusual setting. A good book to read this winter.

Leave a comment

Filed under Writing Tips

Overheard Conversations for Writer Inspiration

Two silhouettes talkingOne of the assignments in a writing class I took several years ago was to listen to a conversation in a restaurant and use it to inspire a story. I choose a few words I overheard by two women who sat at a table near us one evening in Utah. The story I wrote had very little to do with the snatches of their discussion that I jotted in my small notepad. However, I developed a story about them, entered it into a conference writing contest, and won the second place award.

Today, I read an interesting article Sophie Littlefield, author of The Missing Place, wrote on John Scalzi’s blog “Whatever Might Be Lost but Not Forgotten”, The Big Idea feature,  on October 14, 2014. She said, “Conversations overheard become stories germinated.” Littlefield made the point that as writers, we spy for ideas and steal details, “the tiniest pieces of them”, to use in our writing. However, she reassures us when she says, “I can say with confidence that no real person has ever been written into one of my books. But every character is stitched from stolen parts.”

In my story, “Cup of Change” that I mentioned above, I stole the women’s contrasting postures and less than five words they said. The characters that developed didn’t resemble them at all. The setting changed from Utah to a hotel restaurant in Hawaii where customers can watch two swans swim in a large pond while having dinner. The swans’ positions at either end of the pond, became a metaphor for the women’s subtle, but piercing banter. My characters turned into enemies whereas the original women were friends.

Have you written a story inspired by an overheard conversation?

By the way, prolific writer, Sophie Littlefield, has twenty-eight books on Goodreads.


Filed under Writing Tips