Missing Persons: Or, My Grandmother's Secrets

Product Details
$27.00  $25.11
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publish Date
5.7 X 8.39 X 0.55 inches | 0.68 pounds

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About the Author
Clair Wills is the King Edward VII Professor of English Literature at the University of Cambridge. Her books include Lovers and Strangers: An Immigrant History of Post-War Britain, named the Irish Times International Nonfiction Book of the Year, and That Neutral Island: A Cultural History of Ireland During the Second World War, winner of the PEN Hessell-Tiltman Prize, among other works. She is a frequent contributor to the London Review of Books, The New York Review of Books, and other publications. She lives in London

"An expertly crafted work, at once vigorous and subtle, which manages its effects and conserves its revelations with all the skill of a master novelist." --John Banville, The Guardian

"Missing Persons is as close to perfect as a memoir can be; the richness of its subject honed to a poised and discerning brevity, written in unexpectedly lambent prose. It is the sum of Wills's life: both the family history she carries with and within her, but also the four decades of research and analysis that have been her intellectual existence. Only she could have written it, but it will speak to and about the lives of many." --Lucy Scholes, Financial Times

"The stories [Wills] uncovers are remarkable: touching, tragic, terribly human . . . Her book, written with care, wit and vulnerability, shows that ordinary tragedies deserve our anger and attention too." --Laura Hackett, The Times (UK)

"Not just a vivid, compelling account of Clair's family and ancestry, but an intriguing snapshot of Ireland's social history . . . rigorously researched . . . empathetic." --Tanya Sweeney, Irish Independent

"Wills performs a kind of delicate archaeology on the very concepts of familial and historical knowledge . . . Frank, self-aware, and deeply moving, Missing Persons draws attention to what (and who) gets forgotten and left out of history." --Jenny Hamilton, Booklist

"A searing yet nuanced investigation into the lives of complicit relatives, such as her mother, as well as tender portraits of those affected. The author's prose is stellar; her cadence complements this compelling tale, which grew increasingly complex over years of meticulous research . . . Fascinatingly, viscerally haunting." --Kirkus Reviews (starred review)

"[Wills] excavates her own family's secrets in this intimate and probing history . . . [Missing Persons is] a devastating reckoning with cruelty and conformity." --Publishers Weekly

"Clair Wills shines a brilliant, unsparing light into the dark recesses of her family's history--and the history of Ireland. Missing Persons is a stunningly eloquent exploration of how truth-telling, secret-keeping, and outright lies are part of all family stories--indeed, the stories that unite all communities--and how truths, secrets and lies can both protect and destroy us." --Jeannette Walls, author of The Glass Castle and Hang the Moon

"Clair Wills retrieves from time's abyss a speculative history of universal import. This is a penetrating and affecting study, essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand the profound contradictions, the secrets and lies that define post-famine Ireland." --Paul Lynch, author of Prophet Song

"This extraordinary, utterly gripping book reads like a thriller and offers the satisfactions of a mutigenerational novel. Memoir, social history, detective story, ghost story: the singular weave of Missing Persons is brilliantly animated throughout by Wills' distinctive ethos, a kind of impassioned, rigorous, open-hearted attentiveness. Wills reads for the gaps in official stories--familial, social, institutional--and feels out the palpable absences and semi-buried violence in her family's history. The book tracks a complex transgenerational haunting--institutionalized mothers and children, dead babies, migrant laborers, wayward men and women, land-hungry farmers, unspoken yet momentous decisions, those who left and those who stayed. Alert to the vibrations moving through her family over two centuries, Wills refuses the "enormous condescension of posterity" (as E.P. Thompson put it) and turns the white heat of her moral intelligence toward this rich and vexed inheritance." --Maureen N. McLane, author of What You Want

"In its account of one family's history of silence and secrecy, Clair Wills has written a compelling book which demonstrates the uncanny universality of even the most personal stories. Attending to the ways that the past ruptures and grows through the present, this is a history shaken by intimacy--a brave and rigorously humane book." --Seán Hewitt, author of Rapture's Road

"If the past is a mass of tangled wool, Clair Wills frees a long strand and knits it into clarity, line by line, inviting the reader to see the complexity of the pattern she reveals. Written with elegance and erudition, Missing Persons is an extraordinary, moving achievement." --Doireann Ní Ghríofa, author of To Star the Dark