Beth goes to her 15th high school reunion in Chicago and brings her children, Kerry, a baby, Vincent who is 7 and Ben who is 3. She asks Vincent to watch Ben while she goes to the reservation desk in a hotel lobby crowded with reunion attendees, and when she is finished, discovers that Ben has disappeared into thin air. Beth Cappadora married her childhood sweetheart Pat and moved to Wisconsin where she had attended school. They had three children. Her husband worked in the restaurant run by his relatives and Beth is a freelance photographer and homemaker. Pat has an optimistic, cheery disposition, while Beth is always waiting for the anvil to fall. When Ben disappeared, her worst nightmare began.
Beth starts calling for Ben and tells her best friend Ellen he is missing. Sure he is in the hotel somewhere, they alert other high school friends and they all go on the search for Ben. One of her friends, who was always an organizational master, divides everyone into groups as they continue the search. Her niece brings the remaining children to ther hotel room and stays with them and Ellen's children. After an hour, they decide to call in the police.
Detective Candy Bliss arrives and, after getting details and talking with Vincent to see if he remembers anything unusual, sets up a command post, assuring Beth they haven't lost a kid yet. As the hours tick by, Bliss involves police from other jurisdictions, has the state police issue an alert, and then Pat arrives from Wisconsin.
The first portion of the book involves all they did to find Ben; posters, billboards, media interviews and the searching of other places in case he was murdered. The dogs brought in by the police find his scent and lose it in the parking lot. They find one of Ben's shoes. After weeks, Beth has to go back home, Her children had been staying in Chicago with their grandparents while she stayed in the hotel working with the police and friends that lived in Chicago to find Ben. It's time to leave. School will be starting. But when they get home, Beth finds she can't function -- at al. She sleeps all of the time, doesn't change her clothes and is in a deep depression that she never thinks she will get out of.
Throughout the book, Beth's thoughts of life, her missing son, her remaining children and her husband, are revealed. In constant contact with Bliss and her best friends, she and Pat are encouraged to join a missing children's support group, which they do. But it doesn't help. Their marriage is strained but still healthy and Beth has finally decided that Ben is dead. This decision does not sit well with Pat's Italian family and he blames it on her being Irish. Beth simply becomes a robot on tranquilizers. Vincent, on the other hand, is sent to counseling due to some anti-social behavior. We are also privy to his thoughts and his counseling sessions, and eventually find that he feels guilt over losing Ben.
Finally Beth begins to live after 7 years of Ben being gone, and they all move to Chicago where Pat starts a restaurant with his father. One day, a boy shows up asking if they would like their lawn mowed and Beth nearly loses it. She apologizes to the boy and tells him to go ahead, they have a lawn mower in the garage. While he's mowing, she takes pictures of the child. Shot after shot. She's sure it's Ben grown up. She learns from Kerry that he goes to her school and is in the sixth grade. When Pat gets home, she shows him the pictures. He agrees with Beth and they call Detective Bliss, who comes right over. She too agrees and sets things in motion to begin investigating again, take the child into protective custody as they don't know the circumstances under which he's been living, and try to find out if it is Ben, and if so, just what happened. He was living two blocks away.
For the rest of the book, we gain insight into Vincent, Beth, Pat and Det. Bliss' feelings, thoughts and what they believe were their failures. And we get to find out if it really is Ben.
Best part of story, including ending:
I liked that it showed how this could happen and the effect it has on families, and what the kids think and how the police feel when they failed.
Best scene in story:
My favorite scene was when Vincent has one of his meetings with the social worker because the social worker acts like a regular guy and Vincent is surprised.
Opinion about the main character:
What I disliked most was how she ignored her other kids and was content to be a robot, not once thinking what it would do to the others.