5 Stars

and this truly helped me better understand my place in this world

This book was able to keep me entertained and intrigued during my entire read. I entered into another sphere of life and escaped my own troubles! It also helped me to compare some of the characters with people I know…and even myself at times, and this truly helped me better understand my place in this world. Joseph Dobrian did an excellent job bringing me into another mysterious and complex yet realistic dimension…and I usually shy away from fiction! I would highly recommend this book for those who seek to view life from someone else’s unique perspective!

Lucy Coons

5 Stars

A powerful book and a great read

Poor Christine. She is ignored, misunderstood, and unappreciated. As the mystery of her disappearance unfolds, so too are the forces around her. This is not your typical who-done-it mystery. Instead of false starts and turns, the story weaves a tapestry of intertwined lives that set forth unstoppable forces and inevitable conclusions. The characters are alive – they seem like living, breathing people and I’ll bet lots of readers will see parts of themselves, or friends, and their family, in them. It is a masterpiece of character development. The title really makes sense by the time you get to the end. It is a powerful book, with lingering after thoughts.

Dan Davis

5 Stars

Thoroughly enjoyed this book

Thoroughly enjoyed this book. Dobrian’s characters are real; painfully so at some points because they remind us all of our flaws and imperfections. The author has obviously lived amongst complicated souls in his lifetime and those experiences have found their way from his world into the lives of those in this tome.

Nina Jurewicz

5 Stars

Entertaining and highly readable

Dobrian creates an entertaining soap opera filled with unique characters, each in pursuit of their own ambitions, often to the detriment of those closest to them. We watch as they each pursue their (usually selfish) journeys, with often laughable results. It is very likely that we all know these characters – or certainly, people like them – which makes for an all-around highly readable experience. Strongly recommend.


1. Christine Disappears

Let’s start with me: Andy Palinkas. I lived next door to the Wainwrights for 26 years and I watched a lot of this story go down. What I didn’t see, I heard about, with varying degrees of accuracy. This story’s not about me; it’s about the Wainwrights, and especially about the youngest child of that family, Christine, who disappeared in June of 2008.

     It surprises me, how little of this story I’ve had to make up, and how much of it I’ve been able to piece together from other people’s accounts, from gossip, from rumor. I’m not on oath as I tell it. Sometimes I’ll be stating the plain facts. Sometimes I’ll be repeating what was common report. Sometimes I’ll be conjecturing. Speculating, postulating. Guessing at what might have happened. Guessing at what one person or another might have been thinking or feeling. My imagination will tell me: “This is how it must have been, or pretty close.” In any town, you’ll find a few people who know practically everyone in that town, and the story behind each of them. In State City, Iowa, which has 75,000 people (counting the students at State University), it would be an exaggeration to say of any one person that he knew everyone, let alone claim that he had all the dirt on everyone. But I know a lot of the people here, and I know a lot of the dirt – and I can imagine a lot more.

     State City is a gossip town. It’s not a metropolis like New York, where people don’t know each other at all, and stay out of each other’s business. But neither is it a village where each person knows every other person, so that everybody’s afraid to do anything out of the norm. It’s a university town, so you’re authorized to be weird if you want to be, and people won’t care – but they might talk about you.

     The townies complain about the students – they’re noisy, they’re rowdy, they party too much – but without State University, State City wouldn’t be “the smallest big city in the world,” as we like to call it. State University has a terrific teaching hospital, and a first-rate School of Engineering. Its sports teams – the Rivercats – tend to be strong. State University also has a world-famous School of Music. State City has been designated by UNESCO as one of six “Cities of Music” – along with Vienna, Sydney, Milan, Dresden, and Caracas. The School of Music’s headquarters is the Janscombe Center: a massive structure that sits on the banks of the State River and combines indoor and outdoor performance spaces with classrooms and rehearsal studios. The Janscombe Center is a regional equivalent of Tanglewood in Massachusetts, or Lincoln Center in New York City, or the Sydney Opera House. Janscombe is almost a holy place in State City.

     State City is in Eastern Iowa, which was mostly settled by Germans, Irish, Czechs, and Slovaks in the 1840s. Names like Cermak, Blaha, Stasny, Prohaska, Kerchak, Scrofula, and Spatula have been here ever since then. Everybody knows those families, some of which are pretty well off and some not so well off but in any case those families are sort of the hereditary aristocracy of this town. State City is so ethnically mixed now, though, that on any given day an Aziz might be sitting next to a Zylstra on the bus. You’ll see Africans with tribal scars, covered Muslim women, and lots of people from the Eastern Hemisphere.

     This is the town Christine Wainwright grew up in – and disappeared from. For most of her life, Christine was the kind of girl you wouldn’t have noticed: ordinary looking, not especially talented or bright, from a family that was perfectly respectable and completely unremarkable. But by the time she’d turned 17, when she was finishing her junior year of high school, Christine was getting noticed as a singer. People who knew what they were talking about – and there were a lot of those, in State City – were saying she might have “it”: real star quality. Then she went missing.

     One of the strangest bits of gossip to come out of that case was that this normal-seeming teenaged girl had as her closest friend a man 43 years older than she: a man literally old enough to be her grandfather.

     This feature ran in the State City Examiner, a few days before Christine’s disappearance. Like a lot of newspapers in towns the size of State City, The Examiner publishes occasional profiles of local businesspeople, community activists, or village idiots – and on this day, it was this village idiot’s turn. I’d say it provides a better description of me than I could have written myself in 1,000 words or less.

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