Missing: A Memoir


“Through a book that is both honest and elegiac, Spelman succeeds in bringing her experience to us all.  Memoir is by definition deeply personal, but a good writer will not just let you in, but keep you turning the pages….Mother-daughter relationships are often complex, as we navigate the need for approval, understanding and friendship.  We often fail to value family ties until they are gone, and are left wondering about stories we never really took time to listen to. Spelman’s memoir is written with love and tenacity…neither depressing nor horrific, this is not a misery memoir or one seeking catharsis. Rather, it is a book which lets us into one family’s life through the story of one woman seeking to commemorate another….fascinating and enjoyable.”  Louise Penn of LouReview 

Read Q & A with book blogger Deborah KalbDeborah Kalb

See a one-minute video of images from MISSING 

The Frankie Boyer Show podcast interview about MISSING

David Wilk, Writerscast interview with Cornelia about MISSING.

Rebekah Buchanan interview, The New Books Network

Book description: Cornelia Maude Spelman’s memoir of her family springs from a meeting and subsequent friendship with the late, legendary New Yorker editor William Maxwell. In the 1920s, he and her parents had been friends as undergraduates at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. When Spelman hints at what she thinks of as the failure of her parents’ lives, he counters that “in a good novel one doesn’t look for a success story, but for a story that moves one with its human drama and richness of experience.”

At their final meeting, Maxwell encourages her to tell her mother’s story. MISSING is Spelman’s response to Maxwell’s wisdom. With the pacing of the mystery novels her mother loved, and using everything from letters and interviews to the family’s quotidian paper trail—medical records, telegrams, and other oft-overlooked clues to a family’s history—Spelman reconstructs her mother’s life and untimely death. Along the way, she unravels mysteries of her family, including the fate of her long lost older brother. Spelman skillfully draws the reader into the elation and sorrow that accompany the discovery of a family’s past. A profoundly loving yet honest elegy, MISSING is, like the woman it memorializes, complex and beautiful.

Cornelia’s essay on writing MISSING on Writer’s Digest.


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