A review of Missing Christina by Meredith Whitford

Reviewed by Carl Delprat

Missing Christina
by Meredith Whitford
Endeavour Press Ltd
Aug 2017, 263pp, Paperback, ISBN-13: 978-1549555053

The cover informs me that the truth will be revealed. So, with that information, I opened this book anticipating, perhaps, that something sinister will eventually be revealed. The table of contents was divided into two parts with numerical chapter headings and nothing else. Again I’m left with no concept of what is ahead so I flip over the book and check out the back cover.
Apparently, someone’s mother is about to die and her children are beginning to gather around.
Still in the dark, so there is only one thing to do, and that is to start reading and discover what it all about.

The story opens with an e-mail conversations between siblings (a modern approach). From then on Meredith Whitford skilfully introduces her interesting set of characters. Each quickly forms into a personality with individual complexities and all are experiencing the loss of a parent, in particular, their mother. Whitford nimbly takes you into this family and before long the reader is rummaging beside a sibling through the now departed matriarch’s personal affects. There’s a manuscript about a missing girl dated January 1966 and immediately my curiosity is piqued.

With that material as a pointer, I’m now ready to take the journey into the remaining 236 pages.
This engrossing narrative travellers along at a pace that keeps the reader at ease with the sights and situations in a mobile account of this families’ various experiences. One is introduced to these characters as if by eavesdropping, and we also get to read their correspondence and participate within the formalities of a family in grief and suspicion, and by chapter five, the reader feels almost absorbed by this family and through chapter 12 I’m actually living with them. In another century this could be in the role of a servant, always on show but rendered speechless by way of a subservient but participatory position.

Whitford effortlessly interacts her characters along with their assorted baggage across many oceans and towards the inevitable discovery of their mother’s past. Along the way a realistic account is set within these families’ boundaries and excellently detailing every aspect of domestic interaction. But what about this secret? I’m not impatient, just tantalised and compelled to find out. Chapter 13 draws me into Whitford’s net and from now on my curiosity holds no limits as now the story darkens. Whitford surrounds her novel with a smattering of significant historical incidents and this adds to the book’s integrity and enriches the chronicle. As an elderly man well into my 70’s, I recall many familiar bygone incidents depicted throughout this tale and can assimilate within this chronological culture and structure.

While the richness remains within every page, part two of this mesmerizing novel brings the missing pieces cleverly together and eventually reveals the truth. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this captivating tale, and will keep an eye open for Treason, Loves Will, and Churchill’s Rebels, Whitford’s other novels.  I’m also looking forward to her next work. If ever there were a book made for a relaxing long weekend, this would be an excellent choice.

About the reviewer: Carl Delprat is a prolific storyteller. His home is the Australian coastal city of Newcastle, New South Wales. Find his books at: https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/CarlDelprat