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book review: "If I Am Dead or Missing"...

Sunday, July 24, 2016
...by Janine Latus. Subtitle: 'A Sister's Story of Love, Murder and Liberation'.  I did not actually 'read' it, but have been listening to the set of eight CD's checked out from the library last week. Riveting story. I found myself, more than once, arriving at my destination and just sitting someplace in the car, with the AC running, listening. Unwilling to stop the recording, in a parking lot at work, or in the carport at home, waiting to hear more. Copyright 2007, read by the author.

Most of the story is about the author's experience, growing up in Michigan, in a Catholic family with siblings, and a very dysfunctional father. Leaving home as soon as she was of legal age, struggling to finish high school, living with friends, bunking in family rooms/dens on couches, feeling like a misfit. Some sexual abuse, a rape in her late teens, so lots of emotional baggage. Marrying a guy she met in the workplace, while she was attending college, working towards a journalism degree. He was in the medical field, already married, but fell into a relationship with Janine.

When dysfunction meets dysfunction, there are bound to be blowups. They eventually got married, he had half custody of two small children, so there was 'instant' family. He was demeaning, demanding, insecure, emotionally and physically abusive, as well as bullying when he would continually remind her he was the primary source of income. Their home was a battleground, with constant criticism, self-doubt, demands, recrimination, with sweet interludes of harmony and peace, as well as fierce, needy sex, when they would make up after a battle .

The title refers to her sister Amy, who met a man online, while living in TN. This guy was Bad, seriously, with a capital B. Unemployed, criminal record, alcoholic, philanderer. But Amy loved him. And wanted to believe he loved her.  Amy had a job good enough to support him, and most of his bad habits. She agreed to buy him a truck and trailer, supplies to start a painting business.

When she did not show  up for work, though she was well liked by co-workers, dependable, responsible, they began to think something was amiss. Where upon they found an envelope taped to the inside of a desk drawer in at work, with an outline of her suspicions, as well as description of all the funds she had loaned/invested in Ron. Her body was found two weeks later, at a house construction site. Where it had been buried, wrapped in a canvas painter's tarp/drop cloth. 

The narrative takes you through many conversations Janine had with her sister, about men, life, love, living with men, self-recrimination, anxiety over being single/alone/lonely and fear of the consequences of having to live on one income. None of which are grounds for a man to strangle a woman, and hide the body. I'm left with the thought that men 'hold the power' due to pay inequality. If women were paid for their skills/talents/abilities at the same rate as their male counterparts, our society would be a different place.

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