48 Clues into the Disappearance of My Sister

Joyce Carol Oates

Fiction 2023 | 297 pages


Beautiful Marguerite (“M” to her family) disappears from her small town in Upstate New York. But is foul play involved? Or did she merely make the decision to leave behind her claustrophobic life?

Her younger sister Georgene (G) wonders if the flimsy silk Dior dress, so casually abandoned on the floor, is a clue to Marguerite’s having seemingly vanished. The story is set 22 years after M’s disappearance.  The police examine the footprints and other (46 more!) clues. We slowly learn of G's love/hate relationship with the perfect Marguerite.

I don't know Joyce Carol Oates well, but a few reviewers called her "creepy."  Our narrator and main character G IS rather creepy.  This book is more a study of the psychological state of G, than it is about solving the mystery of M's disappearance. Oates' ability to create a character, if this book is a typical indication of her writing skill, is astounding. G is not very likable, is socially incompetent, is angry, bitter, jealous, and resentful.  She has moments of psychological distress and mental un-health, and creates fantastical stories.  The story is both fascinating and disturbing. There is an undercurrent of evil.  G will stay with you four days after you put this book down.

And, an ambiguous end to boot!

Yes, I recommend this book.  It is not a mystery in the truest sense of the word ... it is more a psychological character study.  And I found it quite interesting, engaging, thought-provoking, sometimes amazing.

April 2023


2 responses on “48 Clues into the Disappearance of My Sister

  1. Mary Crawford

    I’ve read some JCO and I haven’t found her “creepy”. She may have earned that reputation from her book “Zombie” based on the life of Jeffrey Dalmer. I think most of her writing could be called a study in character development. I may try this one.
    Did you know she has a Detroit and Ontario connection? She taught for a while at the University of Detroit, then moved to Windsor.