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If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister's Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation

3.44  ·  Rating details ·  5,829 Ratings  ·  1,001 Reviews
In April 2002, Janine Latus's youngest sister, Amy, wrote a note and taped it to the inside of her desk drawer. "Today Ron Ball and I are romantically involved," it read, "but I fear I have placed myself at risk in a variety of ways. Based on his criminal past, writing this out just seems like the smart thing to do. If I am missing or dead this obviously has not protected ...more
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Published May 15th 2007 by Tantor Media (first published April 17th 2007)
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Aug 28, 2007 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one
Shelves: nonfiction
Wow. I'm not sure that I've ever come away from a book disliking the author so much since Lance Armstrong. The book jacket reads as if this will be story about Amy Latus. It isn't. I think that Amy appears in this book only to give Janine Latus a reason to write it (perhaps she saw this as her big writing "break"?), because this book is about Janine and Janine only. Any references to Amy deal with Janine's reaction to what happened to Amy and how hard it was for her. I was also absolutely amazed ...more
Jun 30, 2008 added it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: all women.
This book was a very quick read for me, I read it cover to cover on a 4 hour flight. The writing is stellar, and the subject matter is very compelling.
I disagree with people who chide the author for telling her own story. I always thought that was the point...her story of abuse and her story of her sister's death.
I cried many times during this book. Janine's love for others, her sisters, her mother, and other women in her life rang out loud and clear and familiar.
Violence against women and fa
Jul 07, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: absolutely no one
Shelves: yuck, audible
Ok, I get that in the beginning Latus is setting up the family's background for enduring and living with violence within their relationships. But it's turning me off. I don't know why just yet.


It has been a long, long time since I said "Yuck!" to a book here on Goodreads.

What I'm about to say may cause many people to hate me and jump down my throat due to the nature of the memoir, but I'm just giving my honest impression.

I believe Janine Latus to be one of the most self-centered,
Apr 25, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Even though the basic premise of the account was her sister's death, every element of the book didn't tie into it. Instead, what she did was establish a pattern of abuse that made it more understandable for these two strong, smart, beautiful women to accept a pattern of abuse that is unacceptable for anyone.

To be fair, she can't write about what she didn't know or experience herself. We get to know Amy as a family member would know her-- in this case, as a little sister. They speak on the phone
Jocelynne Broderick
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Saleh MoonWalker
Janine Latus' memoir of domestic abuse depicts two life journeys: Janine's own escape from a violent boyfriend and her sister's tragic death at the hands of one. Both stories are powerful cautionary tales that shine a bright light into the darkness of domestic abuse. There are no heroes here -- just real people whose bravely told stories could save lives.
Michelle Bouchor
May 24, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is an awful, awful book. From the reading the title, you'd think it was about a woman's search for her sister's killer, which is what prompted me to read it. Naturally, I was thinking it was going to be a loving memoir to her sister and how justice was served in the end. Not at all! Until you're almost at the end of the book it's completely about the author's abusive relationship and how she stayed in it and received many beatings, abusive language, etc. I was so disgusted by the author's n ...more
Oct 13, 2007 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone who is unsure if they are in an abusive relationship
I notice some of the reviews here pointing out that this book is about the author rather than her sister. That's definitely true, but I think it's also part of the point of the book. The author was living through a series of abusive relationships while putting on a good face for her family - all the while her younger sister was doing the same.

I think the point is the guilt. At the point in her own life when she finally came to terms with needing out, her sister's parallel story took a turn for t
Aug 29, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Mystique by: MMurphy
Wow, after reading some of the reviews down there, it's a wonder that Janine Latus doesn't pull every copy of her book off of the shelf and give up on women as friends, in addition to giving up on men.

The book is a Sister's Story of Love, Murder, and Liberation. There are 3 things here and I think Janine covers them all. She talks about love - her love for her sister, her family, and eventually herself. She talks about murder - the lurking potential for her own, her sister's, and the constant po
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Wow. This book will make you decide to never, ever, ever affiliate yourself with any male ever again. It's one of the most depressing books I've ever read.

It starts off with the basic Catholic girl victimization--lecherous dad, pervy friends' dads, constant refrain that they are bad and slutty and tempt men, who can't help themselves, moving into the obligatory rape in early adulthood. And things don't get better from there.

It's horrifying to read how the intelligent, witty, educated author gets
Oct 31, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was also confused as to why this book seemed to spend so little time with Amy.

I've decided that the author couldn't write what she didn't know (what was going on in Amy's secretive relationship - Amy wasn't volunteering any information - maybe because she was embarrassed or ashamed - why write the letter in her desk if she didn't know that she couldn't trust her heart)- so Janine wrote about what she did know. - why SHE stayed in abusive, dangerous relationships - we live what we know. I have
Jun 11, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: No one!
Shelves: audiobook
I am shocked and saddened by the tone of this book! Is this a book about the author's missing/murdered sister (as the title implies) or is it about the self-absorbed author?

The title is very compelling and as a fan of true crime shows like Forensic Files, 48 Hours Mystery, etc. I thought this book would be interesting. I listened to it on audio and I must say that the author's sister--the true victim here--was done a huge disservice. This is the most self-indulgent piece of work I have ever pic
Aug 05, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I had a hard time giving this book 4 stars ("really liked it"), although it deserves them. "Missing or Dead" was incredibly disturbing, rather than "likeable". Even more so because it is a true story. I find it difficult to understand women who choose to remain in abusive and controlling situations, and yet I recognized little bits of myself, my family and past relationships within this brutally honest and heart-wrenching memoir.

Latus writes like the journalist that she is. Her words are concis
Dawn Michelle
Aug 28, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who would like insight into an abused persons life
Recommended to Dawn Michelle by: Picked it up the night we had to wait to get the last Harry Pott
Shelves: nonfiction
I started reading this in the bookstore the night we picked up the last Harry Potter book. It is VERY good, but I would like to finish it. Hopefully I can either finish it in the bookstore (a la Aubrey) or just buy it, read it and pass it on!!! :)
More when I am finished!

Finished the book. Finished it 2 hours while sitting in Indigo. I felt like my eyes were on FIRE!
This was a good book, but very very sad. Very thought provoking as well. But over-all, very sad. I think I am still digesting
Caitlin Constantine
I'm giving this a high rating because, while I can see why other reviewers are critical of the limited presence of Amy in the book and hence felt misled, I also have to say, as a woman who was in a similar relationship for the better part of my twenties, the book Latus produced could have very well been written by myself. Everything from the mental soundtrack - including the disdain for other women in bad relationships - to the endless repetitive conversations about how you are cheating with eve ...more
Sep 08, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
Okay, I bought this book yesterday afternoon and finished it this morning. I loved it and hated it. either way, I was compelled to read it. It made me cry several times. I'm not sure that it will be as interesting to everybody else, but some things just resonated for me. A quick synopsis: the author's little sister was murdered by her boyfriend. Part of the healing process for the author was to search back into her own past and examine her own abusive relationships. It was well-written and a bit ...more
Feb 26, 2009 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I listened to this book on audiotape, and while I did enjoy it, I feel like it wasn't what I was expecting. I mean, maybe it's because it was abridged, but it didn't seem so much about the author's sister as the author herself, whose life (and romantic relationships) are covered down to each little detail. Still, a compelling story.
Maddie Takemori
My overall feelings for this book fluctuated constantly throughout my experience, from picking up the cover to read a summary, all the way to the final pages of the book. The summary and description provide you with a teaser of the tradgedy, yet it gives away your sense of curiosity to read further when she *ahem,* "mentions," that Amy is murdered at the end. What reason do you have to finish the book if the featured conflict has already been given to you? I read further, out of curiosity, and ...more
David Groves
Jun 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This account of a sister's murder is not the type of book that it seems. It is better.

Janine Latus's simple story rends the heart. Her sister Amy, a lonely widower in her thirties, lets an ex-con into her life, allows him to borrow over $60,000, and gives him a roof to sleep under. One day, she ends up missing, and sometime later, her body is found, buried in a construction site, buried and wrapped in a tarp.

But this book is nor written in the way that a disinterested journalist would write it.
Jennifer Kronk
Oct 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction
Several reviews seem to criticize this book for focusing more on the author's story than the story of the sister who is murdered. It should be understood that this is not a true crime novel. The author would not be able to fully tell her sister's story. She didn't know it. One of the strong points that this book makes is how isolating domestic violence can be. The author feels trapped in her relationship because her husband kept her from her family. Amy, the sister, is unable to tell the truth o ...more
May 17, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
The title and tagline for this book promise much more than it delivers. I started reading it thinking that it would tell the story of the author's sister, her demise and the aftermath...but instead found chapter after chapter about the author's own life and various affairs and encounters with abusive men. Her sister Amy seemed like an afterthought...mentioned in passing every once in awhile. I also disliked the way she thought of and spoke about her sister...criticizing her weight and appearance ...more
Feb 12, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
No truth in advertising here. This book is the old bait and switcheroo. Cover tells the reader it is about the murder of Amy Latus. It is, but only as an aside to the autobiography of the author. Which by the way is not bad, it's just that it is so ordinary. It is a classic, I had a crappy childhood, I made bad choices because of it, men are all crappy, I woke up and got out and oh yeah, my sister didn't. Latus shows contempt for her sister throughout the novel. The author tells us of how hard s ...more
Karen Bendo
Mar 02, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
What a misleading jacket cover! What I thought I was buying to read was a story about a sister's love and her search for justice for her murdered sister. Instead, whilst well written, what I read was a memoir of an educated but extremely stupid woman and her pathetic lack of self confidence. Delusional. Delusional sisters. I'm lacking sympathy as they flit from one ridiculous relationship to another. These sisters weren't even close! They didn't confide in one another, they simply fed each other ...more
Christina Cici_Mf_Lee
I personally disregard all of the negative comments about this book! I find it quite apalling their could be so much dislike about this book when I myself thought it was a saddened, haunting, beautifully written with heartfelt emotions that drew me in. The fact that the sisters dealt with abusive men their whole lives an how close they were, yet amy and janine declined in telling the whole truth about their relationships, the fact they kept the abuse secret until janine never spoke to Amy again ...more
Khris Sellin
I read this book for CE credits and I cannot for the life of me figure out why this was on the reading list.

I'm in the WTF category of readers of this book. This really has very little to do with the story of the author's sister, who was murdered by her so-called boyfriend.

Right from the beginning I was wondering why we were getting all the gory details of the author's love/sex life but was hoping it would soon develop into something meaningful. I too expected the intertwining of the two sister
Oct 16, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 24, 2008 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: non-fiction, memoir
This book is COMPLETELY different than I thought it would be. I understood it to be about the author's sister's death and the aftermath. Wrong. (The jacket copy for the hardcover edition is terribly misleading, I must say. For example, it makes is sound like the trial of her sister's murderer takes up a huge chunk of the book and it's only mentioned in passing!) The book follows the author and her relationships and marriage, and her sister's death occurs within the last few pages. On one hand an ...more
Jun 09, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was an intense look at domestic abuse. The author chronicles her life and her youngest sister, Amy's life through their abusive relationships and finally to the author's divorce and Amy's death. I couldn't help but wonder why, when it was all-too-apparent that the father was abusive, would the family continue to protect him. The author stresses her family's close-knit bonds, but from my impressions, the family culture was to buck-up and put on a front, which may have attributed to Amy' ...more
Kim Miller-Davis
One of the most common questions people ask when hearing about a battered woman is: “Why doesn’t she just leave?” This is an excellent book for helping people to understand that there is no simple answer.

Janine Latus uses the death of her sister Amy at the hands of an abusive boyfriend as the starting point for her exploration of the psychology behind relationship violence. Latus accomplishes this by examining her own experiences with mentally, physically, and sexually abusive men. She gives a
Monica Ricci
Janine’s Latus’s book, If I Am Missing or Dead, talks about love, murder and liberation. It starts, talking about the author who grew up in Michigan with her four siblings, her mother, and an abusive father. He wasn’t the abusive father who would beat his kids, he would bully them and made sexual remarks towards his daughters. Janine Latus has an interesting life story and talks about the ups and downs she’s had. Most of her relationships with men dealt with abuse, including her relationship wit ...more
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