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Cover for What Is Missing

What Is Missing

A Novel

Michael Frank


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Other Editions of This Title:
Paperback (11/3/2020)
MP3 CD (3/24/2020)


"A wise and necessary book, one I’ve been recommending ardently to everyone I know. " —Julie Orringer, author of The Flight Portfolio

Suspenseful and gripping, award-winning author Michael Frank’s What is Missing is a psychological family drama about a father, a son, and the woman they both love.

Costanza Ansaldo, a half-Italian and half-American translator, is convinced that she has made peace with her childlessness. A year after the death of her husband, an eminent writer, she returns to the pensione in Florence where she spent many happy times in her youth, and there she meets, first, Andrew Weissman, an acutely sensitive seventeen-year-old, and, soon afterward, his father, Henry Weissman, a charismatic New York physician who specializes in—as it happens—reproductive medicine.

With three lives each marked by heartbreak and absence—of a child, a parent, a partner, or a clear sense of identity—What is Missing offers Costanza, Andrew, and Henry the opportunity to make themselves whole when the triangle resumes three months later in New York, where the relationships among them turn and tighten with combustive effects that cut to the core of what it means to be a father, a son, and—for Costanza—a potential mother.

Praise For What Is Missing: A Novel

"Mr. Frank explores the ways that scientific breakthroughs have caused the legal meaning of family to become detached from its genetic definition. The complicated family unit he ultimately forms is very much like this rewarding novel: something that may appear basic and old-fashioned but is in reality built on uncharted ground." --Sam Sacks, The Wall
Street Journal

"A penetrating examination of how a life can be defined by contingency and surprise, marked both by the absence of things long dreamed of and by unexpected presences." --The New Yorker

"Frank’s psychologically astute, engrossing debut novel demonstrates his keen instinct for family dynamics that was evident in his fascinating memoir, The Mighty Franks . . . Frank’s compelling characters each contend with their inchoate sense of self and their abiding need for family." --National Book Review (5 Hot Books)

"[A] memorable debut . . . The novel is filled with trenchant moments of sweetness and betrayal, as well a stunning reveal of the harrowing gauntlet infertile women go through to conceive. This is an intricate and dynamic examination of familial ties: both what strengthens them and what can tear them apart." --Publishers Weekly

"Frank is insightful and sympathetic on the mental and physical toll of [IVF] treatments, and he has a strong sense of family dynamics and crackling dialogue . . . [An] overall impressive debut." --Kirkus

"Touching on heady topics with plot aplenty, [What is Missing] will easily appeal to readers who like to lose themselves in big, multivoiced dramas of love and family." --Booklist

"Michael Frank’s masterful and psychologically acute first novel—which leads us with equal confidence through the light-saturated streets of Florence and the hushed and polished halls of Upper East Side New York—asks the most urgent questions about biology and nurture, about filial and parental love, and about what we’re willing to suffer to find out who we are. This is a wise and necessary book, one I’ve been recommending ardently to everyone I know. " —Julie Orringer, author of The Flight Portfolio

“This sophisticated erotic triangle of a novel is by turns sensuous and harrowing, driven by a point of view roulette masterfully played. For a reader unfamiliar with the experience of assisted reproduction, Michael Frank’s novel is an eye-opener. The ethics-testing extremes here left me thinking about the dire need to balance power between women and men long after I sped to the last page." —Rachel Howard, author of The Risk of Us

Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 9780374298388, 320pp.

Publication Date: October 8, 2019

About the Author

Michael Frank is the author of The Mighty Franks, the winner of the 2018 Jewish Quarterly–Wingate Prize and a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection. His essays, articles, and short stories have appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic, Slate, The Yale Review, Salmagundi, and Tablet, among other publications. He lives with his family in New York City and Liguria, Italy.