Summer Reading

This auspicious debut, begun at the Michener Center for Writers, isn't a mystery yarn or a family gothic, a romance, or a satire of radical environmentalism. It's all of the above and then some.

Summer Reading

The Missing Person

by Alix Ohlin

Knopf, 292 pp., $22.95

This auspicious debut, begun at the Michener Center for Writers, isn't a mystery yarn or a family gothic, a romance, or a satire of radical environmentalism. It's all of the above and then some. Protagonist Lynn Fleming, a graduate student in art history, is a delicious snark, but Ohlin endows her with enough empathy and circumspection to give her a nuanced perspective on the book's events, which transpire during a stagnant summer back home in Albuquerque. Lynn's brother, Wylie, has gone missing, and their mother, a tightly wound travel agent whose new boyfriend just happens to still be married to his insane wife, is panicked. At her request, Lynn broaches the local subculture of ecological terrorists: searching for Wylie, falling for an anarchist plumber, and unearthing a plan to sabotage a development under construction. The book is often madcap but never silly or airy; though its quiet observations about the family dynamic are flecked with dark humor, these moments feel real and lived-in. Ohlin is deeply concerned with the ways in which parents and their grown children disappoint one another, a rich subject she mines with confidence and tenacity. Ohlin's squabbling, predictably disorganized hippie kids and their subversive hijinks fade from memory after the book ends, but her careful treatment of the generation gap doesn't: The children gradually recognize their parents' frailties, the parents resent the children who've outgrown them and rejected their values, and the quarter-century crisis manifests during a trip to a hometown that now seems like an alien landscape.

Alix Ohlin will be at BookPeople with Alicia Erian (Towelhead) tonight, Thursday, May 26, at 7pm.

  • Summer Reading

  • The Coast of Akron

    It's been said that behind every great man there's a woman, but Adrienne Miller kicks it up a notch

    Dark Matter, Reading the Bones: Speculative Fiction From the African Diaspora

    For those new to speculative fiction in general and African-American writers of the form in particular, the newest 'Dark Matter' anthology, edited by Sheree Thomas, is the perfect guide

    The R. Crumb Handbook

    The familiar self-portrait on the front cover of 'The R. Crumb Handbook' offers a warning before you crack the spine:'I'm not here to be polite!'

    Contrabando: Confessions of a Drug-Smuggling Texas Cowboy

    He spent seven years smuggling marijuana into the United States over the border from Mexico and somehow lived to write about it

    The People of Paper

    Rarely does a novel succeed in strengthening itself through its own dismantling

    Saturday

    Ian McEwan's observation of human experience is unflaggingly acute
  • The Closers

    Michael Connelly's ace homicide detective Harry Bosch is back with LAPD after three years' retirement

    Misfortune

    Anyone familiar with the musical output of John Wesley Harding (né Wesley Stace) knows that the artist possesses a sly wit and literary ear that sets him apart from his fellow folk singers

    Bitter Milk

    One big, crippling thought that makes you wonder how long John McManus has been waiting to confide it, this naturalistic first novel from the former Michener fellow and author of the short-story collections 'Born on a Train' and 'Stop Breakin Down' takes place in late-Eighties East Tennessee at the base of a ridge in the Smokies

    Embroideries

    In 'Embroideries,' Marjane Satrapi again returns to the Iran of her youth, this time taking readers to a more intimate place, the space inhabited by women

    Also Recommended

    Some other summer reading possibilities ...

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
More by Marrit Ingman
Wonder Stories
Wonder Stories
Books

July 25, 2008

King Corn
The film’s light hand, appealing style, and simple exposition make it an eminently watchable inquiry into the politics of food, public health, and the reasons why corn has become an ingredient in virtually everything we eat.

Nov. 9, 2007

KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Alix Ohlin, Knopf, The Missing Person

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle