Whispers the Missing Child

This book reminded me of Twin Peaks. I was never sure where the plot was going but the oddball characters, eerie setting, freakish dream sequences and disconcerting surrealism lured me in. The main character is Sarah Dodd, a television reporter who journeys to Shearstown to investigate the disappearance of a child. Sarah Dodd is a lot like Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks, seemingly sweet and virginal, yet you gradually discover something dark brewing inside of her.

The fact that the main character shares the same last name as the author makes this story of disappearance, sexuality and trauma intriguing. I wondered if these obscure and explicit images of children in a remote town were born not just out of the author’s imagination but of reoccurring nightmares, as figures were often repeated, haunting and symbolic.

Whispers the Missing Child is a cleverly fragmented, postmodernist novel, borrowing its structure from the post-traumatic stress and memory loss that the main character Sarah Dodd suffers from. However, this organization makes the transition of each chapter rough as it constantly moves from first to third person narrative. It is Dodd’s use of ornate and poetic language, not the plot, that interests me:

“Scarlet red lipstick had been circled on the woman’s lips in an overdrawn whorish fashion that gave her the appearance of eminent despondency. She was wearing a white button-up shirt, her unbelievable outsized breasts straining behind the material. Wet stains seeped from the fabric as though her breasts were leaking.”

The image is both ravishing and repulsive and I felt that I had seen it before, perhaps in a portrait of Marchesa Casati or a painting by Toulouse Lautrec. Dodd’s descriptive words make the image bewitching and fascinating. Like the canceled Twin Peaks, Whispers the Missing Child doesn’t seem finished. The reader is left wondering what exactly happened, what it means and what is next. (Erin Kobayashi)

by D.O. Dodd, $17.95,156 pgs, The Mercury Press, 22 Prince Rupert Ave., Toronto, ON, M6P 2A7, themercurypress.ca

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