The Missing Hours
Claudia Castro is rich, young and famous – but her life is a mess made worse by the evils of another person. Her parents are divorcing, her appearance on the reality show Rich Kids of the Hamptons has proven to be an ugly and humiliating mistake, and people tend to think of her in negative terms because she made out – on camera – with a guy who had a girlfriend. Her flair for art history goes unappreciated as she struggles to figure out who she is outside of her family bubble.
But then a terrible trauma is visited upon Claudia – she gets drunk at a college party and is raped by two men, and cell phone footage of the incident is subsequently spread all over the internet by her classmates. Claudia’s own phone was stolen, and someone’s posting pictures to her social media to make it appear as if she’s off partying. Claudia is missing the hours between her arrival at a party and waking up missing her underwear, bruised and bloody with vaginal pain. As she tries to retrace her steps throughout her drunken nightmare, is it any wonder that she abruptly disappears from public view?
Meanwhile, Claudia’s sister Edie gives birth to the daughter of a man she barely knows and tries to deal with her postpartum life, including difficulties getting the baby to nurse. When Claudia refuses to respond to any texts from family members, Edie and their family and Claudia’s neighbor, Trevor, are the only ones who seem to be genuinely concerned that Claudia may not be away on a staycation as she initially said she was. The search for Claudia quickly ramps up – especially as a trail of violence connected to the men who assaulted her begins to come to vivid and bloody life.
The Missing Hours is brutally honest about what it’s like to be an imperfect victim, and the horrors and pain of being a rape victim. Dahl is unsparing as she asks the audience if they would believe – would protect –the dignity of a Kardashian-esque woman going through this sort of pain. Dahl does a good job of capturing life in Martha’s Vineyard and the tonier parts of New York, and the sort of college culture that gives rise to horrors like those Claudia is subjected to.
Claudia is not a perfect person, but she definitely earns her revenge – and the narrative suggests that even that revenge might be temporary unless she uses her power as a social media influencer to take down the men who assaulted her. I ended up truly liking her and truly liking Edie. As rich as they are, their lives are not easy, and they come to full life under Dahl’s pen. Even the worst characters in the novel do this, in spite of their horribleness and disgusting choices.
To say more about the plot would spoil it, so I’ll just encourage you to pick up The Missing Hours and find out what’s happened to Claudia and how she goes about exacting her revenge for yourself.
Note: graphically depicted rape, violence, sexual harassment, child abuse, verbal abuse.