Book review: Missing, a memoir

Cornelia Maude Spelman’s family memoir looks at the story of her mother and her family secrets and sorrows.

Through a book which 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.

Often we find the lives of our parents are a blank we struggle to fill – we have their own testimony, but obviously that is curated and sifted, often less than honest. Spelman is curious enough to dig deeper and find out the truth.

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: her search for the truth turns her detective as she heads into places and issues she had not previously considered.

Defiantly American, Missing asks the questions all children might like to know about their parents. Who were they? What did they dream? How did they become who they were?

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.

I found it fascinating and enjoyable, not just because of the family tale but because of the historical and cultural context of what made Spelman’s parents who they were.

A lively and loving curiosity surely benefits us all, and that makes Missing universal and accessible to any reader.

Missing: a memoir by Cornelia Maude Spelman is published by Jackleg Press and is now available to purchase now.