Cover image for Place last seen : a novel
Place last seen : a novel
Freeman, Charlotte McGuinn.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Picador USA, [2000]

Physical Description:
294 pages ; 22 cm
Format :


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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.

Author Notes

Charlotte McGuinn-Freeman has been previously published in Outside Magazine , Summit Magazine , and The Crossroads Anthology , and has been the recipient of the International Fiction Prize, the White-Howells Prize for Prose and a residency award at Art of the Wild. This is her first novel. She lives near San Francisco.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

It's every parent's worst nightmare: a young child disappears during a family outing. Her mother and father are frantic with worry; her brother blames himself for losing track of her; the search-and-rescue team keeps looking, but the chances of finding the missing child diminish with every passing hour. This first novel is perhaps a little too manipulative (Freeman seems intent on ringing every emotional bell), but it is also very moving. The first-person narration helps make the suspense seem very real, but the characters, especially the little girl's mother and father, seem a little shopworn. The author deserves full marks, though, for pulling off a gutsy and potentially disastrous ending: readers should be prepared for a shock. This novel could catch on with readers of both high-concept thrillers and true-life adventure stories. --David Pitt

Publisher's Weekly Review

"Maggie is lost." The matter-of-fact urgency of McGuinn Freeman's opening sentence sets the tone for her solid debut novel. The young Baker family is hiking in the Desolation Wilderness of California's Sierra Nevada when their six-year-old daughter, Maggie, who has Down's syndrome, goes missing while playing hide-and-seek. The ensuing drama unfolds from multiple points of view. Maggie's 30ish artist mother, Anne, her architect father, Richard, and her eight-year-old brother, Luke, are joined in their search by members of the official rescue team, and as the search progresses, the personal traumas of each character emerge. Steve, the middle-aged team leader, is under pressure to keep everyone focused, and Ed, a misanthropic search expert, uses a combination of intuition and expertise to find missing people. Ed hasn't seen his own son, a boy about the same age as Maggie, for three months, since his estranged wife took him away with her. As each night falls, as does the autumn temperature during the three-day search, all parties grow increasingly anxious. Anne and Richard replay the sequence of events that led up to Maggie's disappearance, and feel additional guilt because their daughter has special needs. Luke blames himself for not keeping a closer eye on his younger sister, and as they wait for developments, he sets about building a fort, "a place he can put Maggie in so she can never get out, never wander away." Attitudes toward the "mentally challenged," the intricacies of search and rescue, and the terrible randomness of fate are all poignantly explored here. With its evocative forest setting and unexpected ending, Place Last Seen (the official term for the spot where the missing person was last sighted) is a cinematic page-turner. Regional author tour. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

YA-This novel follows the loss and search for a six-year-old Down's syndrome child who has strayed away from a family camping in the Sierra Nevadas. The uncertainty of the hunt as well as the emerging insights into the nature of Maggie's parents and older brother move the plot forcefully. The greatest interest in the book for young people, however, could well be the in-depth mechanics of conducting such a search. Freeman shows how rescue teams cope with the constant threat of oncoming weather and engage in graphing, mapping, and exhaustive close examination of the terrain. The logistics of assembling and coordinating volunteer searchers are detailed. The narrative is told from the viewpoints of both family members and search crews, but primarily it is the story of the family. Anne, the mother, is a difficult character. An artist, she is convinced that her own psychic energies will result in reunion with her child. In addition to their exhausted despair, her more practical husband, nine-year-old son, and a supportive paternal grandmother must cope with her petulant frenzies. Snow halts the rescue work and there is an eventual sad resolution. The strength of the book is in the suspense of the search and a developing familiarity with how it is conducted.-Frances Reiher, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.