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If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister's Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation Hardcover – April 17, 2007

3.9 out of 5 stars 225 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. At age 37, Janine Latus's younger sister, Amy, was strangled to death by her live-in boyfriend, bundled in a plastic tarp and buried beside a remote country road. It was a wretched end to a too-short life, one frequently marked by disappointment, sadness and struggle. In the hands of a less gifted writer, Amy's story might stand only as an encomium or a cautionary tale: a glimpse into the life of one abused woman, representative of thousands like it. But Latus weaves a double strand. Part memoir, part biography, the book (which grew out of an article in O Magazine) explores Latus's own relationships with abusive men—and her eventual emancipation from a marriage riven by emotional and physical violence. Latus has a spare, economical style, softened by an undercurrent of humor and marked by a total absence of self-pity. When on a ski vacation, a boyfriend brutally beats her, breaking several of her ribs and her nose—and then makes love to her, in a twisted form of penance—Latus doesn't wince in the retelling. She lets ambiguities and contradictions abide: she loved her husband, even as he humiliated and hurt her. Had things been slightly different, she seems to say, she—and not Amy—might have perished at the hands of her partner. Unforgettable, unsentimental and profoundly affecting, Latus's book resonates long after the final page is turned. (May)
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From Booklist

Having suffered through a childhood of rebellion against an abusive father and escaped to an uncertain early adulthood, Latus maintained contact with her family, particularly her younger sister, Amy. Whereas Janine was thin and obsessed with her appearance, Amy was overweight. Both were in abusive relationships, each giving a highly edited version of her life to her sister. Janine painfully records the slow erosion in her own self-image—too eager to please men, even going so far as to have breast implants—while she chronicles Amy's struggle with weight, divorce from an alcoholic, and eventual enrollment in college. Janine explores her own self-justification for taking abuse from her husband, citing his devotion, passion, and attempts to keep the marriage together. All the time, she recognizes the looks of her stepchildren—the cringing against imminent explosions—as feelings she and her siblings had had growing up with a volatile and abusive father. When Amy is murdered by yet another unsuitable man, Janine confronts the cost that women pay for pretending that all is well. A heartbreaking look at domestic violence. Bush, Vanessa

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (April 17, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0743296532
  • ISBN-13: 978-0743296533
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.4 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (225 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #602,155 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By B. A Libby on July 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Janine Latus was born into a family where babies happened frequently. Janine's own twin dies of crib death, and her mother almost hemorrhages to death after one difficult birth. Years later, when Janine asked her father why they kept having children when it was so hard on her mother, her father answers her, "men have needs". And from this attitude, a man with several daughers begins the string of abuse that ends with the death of one, and the soul crushing subversion of another to men's needs. Janine's father objectifies females, feeling free to comment on their relative sexuality, figures, and odds of getting a husband. With this as a beginning, each Latus girl sets off to define her life and herself, crippled with a view of women so skewed that abuse and deceit were almost pre-destined. This book is a journey one woman takes through life with her self-loathing already programmed in. It takes her on a terrible journey. The only thing it did not do is end in her death. That fate belongs to her sister. Janine views her own life, her little deaths of ego and self-reliance unsparingly. She also sends a message of love and understanding for her sister's self-destructive actions. It is a hard message to digest. Every woman who has ever kept her mouth shut for fear of angering her husband, has ever put a man's needs above her own, has ever viewed herself as primarily a sexual being, will be hit in the gut by this book. And if the men who read this are astute, they will be overwhelmed by the terrible responsibility of raising a daughter in a world where the message of sexuality and lack of value of women is pervasive. This is a fast, good, read, but the message lingers long after the last page is finished.
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Format: Hardcover
I love this quote I read on one of the other Latus sister's website in an article talking about how insidious psychological and emotional abuse is to the person being abused.

I read this book in two days and it was an incredibly compelling read for me. I am still in the recovery/wreckage assessment process after the ending of my own marriage to an emotionally and psychologically abusive man that completely decimated my self- esteem. The author's honesty is astonishing if not painful to read how she accepted her husband's humiliation and treatment of her as an object that he controlled (painful for me, since I did the same). Given on my own situation, this book was incredibly helpful for me to get some perspective on how I let myself remain in an abusive relationship. I too loved my husband deeply and went through a similar cycle of placating, then rebellion, then anger at his controlling, manipulative, jealous behavior. One of the hardest things for me in escaping the relationship has been having friends and family understand and accept what I went through. Like the author's marriage, from the outside we seemed like the perfect couple. Unlike the author, though, I rarely shared what was happening inside the marriage and my husband kept me isolated from friends and family like her husband did as well. It seems like if your husband does not physically beat you (my husband would get physically violent when he became enraged - shoving, pinning me down or up against a wall, grabbing me, poking me with his finger forcefully over and over in my chest - but he never punched in the eye or broke a bone or anything) then people don't seem to accept that you have been in an abusive relationship. My ex is the picture of charm and has a 'big teddy bear' persona about him to the outside world.
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Format: Hardcover
I couldn't put this book down and it's still haunting me. It tells

the story of two sisters who definitely hook up with the wrong men,

but it's also an examination of how easily it is to become isolated

in one's own pain to the point where there are no options. Although

Amy Latus and her sister, author Janine, were close enough to talk a

few times a week, Amy never revealed how dire her situation was and

Janine only found out through a note, when it was too late. The

writing in this book is beautiful, but the most powerful element is

the poignancy of the author telling her story to save other women,

even if she couldn't save the sister she loved and thought she knew.

This is a stirring work of journalism and a very worthwhile read.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This was a very good -- yet at times -- a very emotionally difficult read.

Janine Latus does a very good job in this memoir writing about the parallels in her marriage and her youngest sister's abusive relationship that ultimately ended in the sister's murder. The important thing to note is while the abuse that Janine suffered in her marriage was much more subtle and insidious than the outright murder of her sister, Amy, it was nonetheless just as damaging to the soul.

Latus unflinchingly explores the childhood and father that led both sisters to become involved with the wrong men.

This is an important read for most women and I think a very good book to suggest to a young woman who has just begun to date.

As noted in another review, this is JANINE'S story - the sister who survived - not the blow by blow account of how her sister Amy came to be murdered. So if you are a true crime/Ann Rule buff - this is not your book.
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