Missing From Me
Tellwell Talent (2022)
Reviewed by Stephanie Elizabeth Long for Reader Views (12/22)
Your son is missing.
As a mother myself, this is, irrefutably, my worst nightmare, but for Heather Shtuka, this was the sobering reality. On February 18, 2018, after being alerted by her son’s roommate that he hadn’t been seen since the night before, she and her husband made the nine-hour trip from Alberta to Sun Peaks, BC, to begin the arduous and heartbreaking task of searching for Ryan. Days turned into weeks, turned into months, but the parents’ resolve never wavered. Their supportive community of friends and volunteers tirelessly dedicated their time. But still, there was no solace—no Ryan. Heather would not grieve until her son’s body was recovered.
“Missing From Me” is a labor of love written by Heather Shtuka that chronicles the search and rescue efforts in the early days of Ryan’s disappearance, followed by the all-consuming grief that came afterward. Heather’s story is a sad one, but there are nuggets of joy throughout—a community banning together, unwavering support, and the legacy that a charismatic young man leaves behind. This is a book that you need to read.
While there were many things to find touching about this book, the one that filled my heart most was Heather’s perseverance. This was a woman that could have easily (and understandably so) crumbled under pressure and let grief swallow her whole. After all, a parent should never bury their child. Instead, she channeled that sorrow into something beautiful. She wrote down her feelings and recollections—memories of Ryan on a community Facebook page and embraced the community that bore some of the weight when the grief was too heavy. It is said that raising a child takes a village, but the same can be said about losing one. Keeping his memory alive was a collective effort, and I like to think that in his wake, the gift that Ryan left behind was the unending support of a loving community.
This heartfelt book has accomplished two things—it provides a therapeutic outlet for a grieving mother and honors the memory of a young man who touched many lives. I’d say that was a silver lining, wouldn’t you? Unfortunately, life happens, and as much as we may think we’re immune, tragedy doesn’t discriminate. In a matter of seconds, it can set fire to our whole world—leaving us broken on the ground. But Heather teaches us it is how we rise from the ashes, despite how much we may falter and get to our feet, that allows us to see slivers of hope once again. As the author would say to her son, it’s okay if you fall—just get back up.
Heather’s book will resonate deeply with readers, especially parents who have lost a child. Her raw, unfettered emotion creates a safe place to grieve, and her resilience will be a beacon of light in the darkest days. “Missing From Me” is a 5-star book!