Novel from W. W. Norton
Feb 2011

The Sweet Relief of Missing Children

In New York City, a girl called Leonora vanishes without a trace.

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The Sweet Relief of Missing Children
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The Sweet Relief of Missing Children


In New York City, a girl called Leonora vanishes without a trace. Years earlier and miles upstate, Goldie, a wild, negligent mother, searches for a man to help raise her precocious son, Paul, who later discovers that the only way to save his soul is to run away. As the narrative moves back and forth in time, we find deeper interconnections between these stories and growing clues about Leonora—this missing girl whose face looks out from telephone poles and billboards—whom one character will give anything to save.

At the heart of this mysterious debut rests a singular, discomfiting truth: The need of children to be free of their parents is no stronger than their parents’ need to be free of their children.


Shortlisted for the 2011 Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize

Winner of the 2012 Maine Literary Award in Fiction

National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” 2010 Honoree, Fiction

Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance 2012 Literary Award, Fiction


"Enthralling... Sweet Relief is that rare book: a page-turner in which the plot is secondary to the brilliant, visceral portrayal of its characters."

— O, Oprah Magazine

"Braunstein paints a gorgeous portrait of a wide variety of characters, all fully realized...Highly recommended for readers of contemporary fiction."

— Library Journal

"I have never encountered a book that treated its characters with such savage compassion... I felt morally inspired by this book."

— Salvatore Scibona, author of The Volunteer

"A dazzling novel. Luminous and precise... the story rushes to an unexpected yet thrilling conclusion.  I love this book so much, I hated to reach the final page."

— Malena Watrous, author of If You Follow Me

"How to describe a book this beautiful, and this devastating? Sarah Braunstein traces love's strange and manifold forms, and gives voice to the fears and longings we thought unspeakable. Such immaculate writing, such fierce clarity of vision: I emerged from her novel feeling shaking, exhilarated, changed."

— Sarah Shun-lien Bynum, author of Likes

How to read or listen

Order at Indie Bound or Amazon.

Order the audiobook via Dreamscape Media or Amazon.

Italian translation published by 66thand2nd.

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