Janine Latus’ “If I Am Missing or Dead: A Sister’s Story of Love, Murder and Liberation,” seems, on the surface, to be something of a true-crime book, the story of the murder of Latus’ younger sister, Amy, at the hands of an abusive boyfriend.
In reality, the book is much, much more. Latus tells the story of her family, and of her father’s cavalier attitude about her mother’s health and physical problems ("Men … have needs" apparently being one of his most closely held philosophies), his inappropriate, off-color and sometimes cruel comments about his four daughters, and finally of her mother’s eventual success at freeing herself from him.
Her daughters, however, are not as lucky. He’s their father, after all, and although they avoid him and his wandering hands and lewd comments, the reader can only deduce that it is his influence during their formative years that later led both Janine and Amy to endure long-term abusive relationships — mentally abusive in the case of Janine, physically in the case of Amy.
The book is as much the story of Janine’s growing awareness of and eventual liberation from her abusive relationship as it is of Amy’s failure to escape from hers, despite offers of help from friends and the unending support of her family.
If you’re in an abusive relationship of any kind, this book may provide some of the support you need to accomplish your own liberation. And if you’re in a healthy relationship, it’s likely to help you appreciate the one you love.