In this collection, Tory Tuttle’s seven stories give readers a bird’s-eye view of lives where something that should be part of the picture has been erased. Her characters are the people never seen in happy sitcom openings and toothpaste ads. They are, as the title explains, dealing with the missing.
Every story in The Missing has at its center the kind of life-altering grief that creeps up on people’s lives. They involve runaway kids, mothers losing their children, victims of assault, elderly left to die on their own, babies born into difficult circumstances, and more.
Often, Tuttle teases readers with her characters’ mental states: Are they of sound mind and body? Or is their grief and sorrow pulling apart the seams of a reality they are trapped inside?
For example, in “The Bridge,” the story’s narrator sees a bridge where men, women and children walk but sometimes are seen falling from its walkway. Is this the imagined, fearful creation of an overwhelmed mother’s psyche or is it real? Similarly, “112 Months” explores the grief of a young mother, but are we merely inside her mind or is she telling us the truth about her life?
All of the stories are told in first person, in measured degrees or by tumbling out quickly as the narrators detail the emotional rollercoaster of their individual dramas. Each of the stories succeeds, mostly due to the skillful dialogue between characters and the narrators’ distinctive voices: Every character has an energy and vocabulary that matches their emotional intelligence, creating stories that stand as a singular testament to one person’s experience.
There’s a common plaintive wail in all their stories, however, that hints at what could have been a more sharply drawn connection between the people in one offering to another, which would have been welcome.
But if readers enjoy small worlds writ large in characters’ psychological traumas, The Missing provides a meaningful reading experience presented by an imaginative new author.