Open Book. B&W. ©Alina Oswald.

Book Review: Missing

by Drake Braxton
Seventh Window Publications

Reviewed by Alina Oswald

Award-winning photographer and long-term AIDS survivor Kurt Weston [A&U, November 2005] once shared his belief that any extreme situation—be that a diagnosis with a life-threatening disease like AIDS or cancer or surviving a natural (or man-made) disaster—can bring out the best or the worst in people and forever alter their personalities and outlooks on life. We find this idea not only as part of our everyday reality, but also as a source of inspiration in works of fiction, like Drake Braxton’s debut and award-winning novel, Missing.

Starting out as an intriguing mystery—not lacking in typical characters or situations, thus offering readers what they would usually expect from such a story—Missing quickly develops into a captivating read, a riveting tale of love, loss, grief, addiction, deception, and also undying friendships. Although AIDS is an underlying motif in Missing, it is not presented as an imminent life threat. Rather, Braxton chooses to shed a…warmer light on the whole subject of AIDS, offering a two-fold symbolism: On the one hand, AIDS provides a lesson in and about life through the stories and memories of those who’ve lived with the disease for years and who’ve witnessed its wrath (and related loss and suffering); on the other hand, an HIV test (or potential diagnosis) is offered up as a pivotal point in the plot that offers characters a new lease on life.

In Missing Braxton takes the meaning of the phrase “appearances can be deceiving” to an entirely new level, and also proves that second chances are worth taking, and that life-altering events can lead to a journey of discovery—of one’s life and of oneself as a missing part of life. A fascinating work of fiction, Missing offers readers a (fictional) ride of their lives that surpasses their wildest imaginations, leaving them speechless and ready for another round.

Alina Oswald is a writer, photographer, and the author of Journeys Through Darkness: A Biography of AIDS. Contact her at

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