Charlotte McGuinn Freeman
During a day hike in the Desolation Wilderness of the Sierra Nevada, the Baker family's life turns upside down when the youngest, a six year-old girl with Down Syndrome, disappears while playing hide-and-seek with her brother. Place Last Seen follows the paths of two stories--the Rescue and Search team's efforts to find Maggie and her family's attempts to come to terms with their loss. Clear, moving, and never sentimental, Place Last Seen explores the complicated bonds of family life.
Georgia Herod on Goodreads wrote:
The writing in this book is exquisite. It keeps you along seamlessly with the intense pace of the search and rescue and the exploration of the characters. Thankfully I have not had any experiences like the ones in the book, yet it fully rang true to me. Although the story is tragic, this is the best thing I have read in a long time because of the quality of the work. As someone who lives in the mountain West and is outdoors a lot, this gives me new insight into both what the families with a missing person go through and what the Search and Rescue teams go through. Of course underlying all of that, reading about the mother's fierce love of her daughter with Down syndrome was powerful--as was her all-too-human need to have the shortest break from that awareness and then the horror of the consequences. Also the descriptions of the landscape are exquisite.
A first novel—the story of the Baker family (Richard, Anne, son Luke and daughter Maggie, who has Down’s Syndrome) who are taking a a day hike in the Desolation Wilderness of the Sierra Nevadas. While playing hide-and-seek with Luke, six-year-old Maggie runs away—and she can’t be found. Parents search desperately, then call Search and Rescue. The search is complicated because Maggie doesn’t think or act like other children. The search covers three days and nights with no success. The reader sees the reaction to Maggie’s disappearance in each family member, those in the search team, and then Freeman conveys the gripping reality of family relationships being tested as they wrestle with guilt, doubt, fear, and hope. Freeman also reveals the characters mourning differently, not necessarily according to the “grief cycle.”
Though the book is well-written, I was absolutely exhausted by the time I finished reading it--I felt as if the psyche and emotions of the characters had been revealed over and over. I was just ready for it to end, no matter whether or not they found Maggie! The setting is definitely a huge "character" in the novel, and the author gives much attention to it.