Review: Traces of Absence by Susan Holoubek

Title: Traces of Absence

Author: Susan Holoubek

Published: Pan Macmillan Au July 2013

Read an Excerpt

Status: Read from July 21 to 22, 2013 — I own a copy {Courtesy Pan Macmillan}

My Thoughts:

Traces of Absence is a moving and poignant story of a mother’s search for her lost daughter. Beautifully written, it is an emotionally harrowing tale of grief, loss, guilt and hope.

In 2005, Dee encouraged her nineteen year old daughter, Corrie, to put her university studies on hold and spend some time with their former exchange student, Marco, in Argentina. Corrie had been struggling since the sudden death of her father the year before and Dee thought the break would help Corrie deal with her grief. It is not until she receives a call from Marco, concerned that Corrie has not returned from a scheduled sight seeing trip a week previously, that she begins to regret encouraging her daughter to leave. Anxious, but hopeful Corrie has simply thoughtlessly forgotten to apprise Marco and his family of a change of plans, Dee makes arrangements for the care of her fourteen year old twin sons and flies to Argentina to speak with a representative of the Australian Consul.
Four years later, Dee is preparing for her annual pilgrimage from Australia to Buenos Aires. There has been no word from Corrie since she disappeared and Dee wonders if it is time to accept she may never know what happened to her daughter, but when she comes across a photo at an exhibition with a young woman in the background who reminds her of her daughter, hope flares and Dee is willing to give this last search her all.

I had expectations, given South America’s reputation for violence, corruption and criminality, of the way in which the plot of Traces of Absence would unfold and conclude, but you know what they say about assumptions. It is never certain if Dee, and therefore the reader, will discover Corrie’s fate and that well paced, intriguing mystery, as much as my identification with Dee, kept me turning the pages.

My sympathies were immediately aligned with Dee in Traces of Absence, I can only imagine her devastation upon finding out her daughter had vanished in South America, and the years of heartbreak that follow with no word. Though it is Corrie that is missing and Dee’s search for her provides the momentum for this novel, the focus is more on Dee’s emotional journey as she reflects on her relationship with her daughter before her disappearance and considers her perceived failings as a mother. As the primary wage earner in the family with a busy job, her relationship with her sensitive daughter, who often claimed to feel ignored and unloved by her mother, was difficult and the strain worsened after Dee’s husband died of a heart attack while Corrie was the only one at home with him. With her daughter gone, Dee has no way to resolve their past, to explain, or ask for forgiveness or forge a closer connection with Corrie. As a mother to a seventeen year old girl who is on the verge of beginning her own life, Dee’s fears and failings resonated with me (and make me thankful my daughter has no desire to travel overseas).

I found Traces of Absence to be a superb read, both for its compelling mystery and emotional intensity and I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend this thought provoking and intriguing novel.


Available to Purchase from

PanMacmillan I BoomerangBooks I Booktopia I Amazon Kindle

via Booko



5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Teddyree
    Jul 30, 2013 @ 17:08:51

    Wow, I was completely unaware of this one, so glad I read your review. A difficult read but one I’m going to try and get my hands on. It reminded me of a true crime memoir I read years ago called Loving Natalee, written by her mother Beth Holloway. Natalee disappeared in Aruba in 2005, sadly there was no happy ending 😦



  2. The Australian Bookshelf
    Jul 30, 2013 @ 21:25:58

    I loved this book, it’s so well written. I too had similar assumptions about what it would be about when I picked it up but was pleasantly surprised!



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