Mitchard lets us catch up with the Cappadoras

"No Time to Wave Goodbye" by Jacquelyn Mitchard; Random House ($25)

For every avid reader, some characters linger after a book is finished, gently intruding as the reader moves on to other works, popping up at unexpected times to insist that their story isn't finished. For me, one of those characters has long been Vincent Cappadora, a secondary but extremely important young man in Jacquelyn Mitchard's 1996 megaseller (it was the first Oprah's Book Club selection) "The Deep End of the Ocean." In that book, Vincent's little brother Ben is kidnapped at age 3, then returns to the family at 12, forever changed. Vincent blames himself for Ben's disappearance, and we get a strong hint of his anguish.

Mitchard makes Vincent the central character of "No Time to Wave Goodbye," which revisits the Cappadoras 13 years after Ben's return.

Vincent, Ben and sister Kerry have become young adults, and Beth, the savagely mournful mother in "Deep End," has achieved a sense of peace and safety.

The family is still dealing with the repercussions of Ben's abduction, however. As the book opens, the Cappadoras have gathered for the premiere of budding filmmaker Vincent's documentary, which shares the name of the book. Beth watches in disbelief, then horror, as she realizes the film tells the stories of five families whose children also disappeared, but did not return.

Beth soon gets over her sense of betrayal, and the family throws its support behind the formerly ne'er-do-well Vincent, whose film is nominated for an Oscar. But tragedy strikes, throwing the family back into the miasma of grief they thought they'd left behind.

As with "Deep End," Mitchard gorgeously combines piercing psychological insight with one heck of a suspense story. I read the last 150 pages in one breathless sitting.

Mitchard also has a knack for summing up a character's emotions in simple, perfect imagery, as when she describes an exhausted Beth late in the book: "There was nothing animated within Beth except a hot, pale column of rage, like a third rail threaded through her torso."

If you haven't read "Deep End," go there first. If you have, be prepared to once more be completely immersed in the Cappadorra family with "No Time to Wave Goodbye." Now I'm wondering how the sister's opera career turns out.