This one is a disturbing, empowering, and thought-provoking book by Mike Bradbury who, along with his father-in-law Dana Scott Winters, has shared his story of 25 years of a hope-and-disappointment cycle experienced during the search for his kidnapped daughter Laura. The little girl, only three-and-a-half then, was abducted from a site of camping in Joshua Tree National Monument, California, in October 1984. Since then, Mike spared no effort in trying to find his daughter, including facing armed criminals and partaking of private investigation. His challenges grew as he discovered the unexpected.
Finding an abducted girl may have been much harder back in the 80s but what made Laura’s case particularly cumbersome were the seams in the efficiency, and even intentionality, of the concerned sheriff’s department. Not responding properly to reports of sightings and exhibiting slackness in investigating suspects as well as handling evidence, the local police soon lost its reliability with Mike and his family, leading to Mike’s personal quest in collaboration with private investigators to find a trace of Laura. This led to an adventure full of risk, desperation, and hope for the Bradburys.
Above all, Mike’s search for Laura was accompanied by the establishment of the Bradbury’s own center for finding the child, attaining organized, collective effort that world serve as an example of self-help for everyone facing loss and/or trauma. Every phone call, every sighting, and each bit of help from volunteers/philanthropists reinforced the belief that good does not prostrate before evil. Mike’s loss became a symbol of threat for the entire community. Criminals existed, were active, and were getting away; they could harm anyone, anytime; and protecting one’s family was no more solely the burden of the law enforcement agencies – it was also one’s own. The way Mike pursued his mission of finding Laura is a winning story with a lesson: Never Give In!
Laura Ann Bradbury (Missing) is truly a father’s search. It tells the story from Mike’s side. In one sense, it is more of a man’s book as Patty (Laura’s mother) is not allowed much to tell therein. Yet, it is a book that everyone needs to read, especially the parents and would-be parents, to learn from Mike’s experience and to help their own children grow safer. Laura may still be out there, and Mike’s hope is alive! It is hard to read this book without developing the crushing feeling of somehow reuniting Laura with her family. Mike’s story speaks to the human soul in all of us.