Book Review: Missing by Cornelia Maude Spelman

Missing cover imageFamily is something many of us take for granted. Our parents and our siblings just are, and even if we’re curious about our parents’ lives before we came along, we often don’t do anything with that curiosity. Cornelia Maude Spelman decided she would, and she wrote about her journey to discovery in her memoir, Missing.

Spelman’s task was daunting especially because both of her parents had died by the time she decided to delve into their pasts. Her tenacity led her to investigate avenues I wouldn’t have considered, like the decades old hospital notes detailing her mother’s final illness, and personal interviews with her mother’s high school teacher and others. She was fortunate in that her family wrote letters to each other and kept many of them. She was able to look back at their writings for clues into events in their lives and their emotions surrounding them.

In the end, Spelman creates a loving look at the flawed and complicated people she loved. Missing focuses mainly on the author’s mother, and the book is divided into two parts: My Mother’s Story, and My Mother’s Past. Spelman is inspired to tell the story after a visit with one of her parents’ friends from college, William Maxwell. After college Maxwell became a famous editor in New York, while her parents went in a different direction and never thought of themselves as successful. Maxwell encourages her to tell her mother’s story.

Missing is both personal and universal, in that it recounts a child’s search to know her parents, particularly her mother. It should be inspiring to anyone who has ever wanted to know more about their own parents or other relatives who have come before them. For more information about Missing or Spelman and her other books, visit the author’s website:

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