The Missing
Andrew O'Hagan
(The New Press, hardcover , $20.00 US)

Andrew O' Hagan, 28, is obsessed with missing persons. While not everyone shares his preoccupation, mysterious disappearances do affect those of us who are left behind, often in ways that we were not aware. Missing persons, paradoxically, are always with us.

At least that's the premise of O' Hagan's first book, a way-nineties hybrid of journalism, memoir and social history. The world portrayed in The Missing is one filled with snatched children, murdered dance queens, lost grandmothers who have Alzheimer's, forgotten welfare recipients, runaway teenage speed addicts and people who, for whatever reason, chose to shed their original identity. But then, so is the real world. O'Hagan, however, searches for meaning in these disappearances and contemplates life in a society where missing persons and their mythologies loom large.

At times, the author himself may seem to lose his way—particularly during O'Hagan's involved (although enjoyable) portrayal of his childhood in the Glasgow suburbs—but stay the course, because sensitive and smart ruminations abound.