Cover image for The year we disappeared : a father-daughter memoir
The year we disappeared : a father-daughter memoir
1st U.S. ed.
Publication Information:
New York, N.Y. : Bloomsbury, 2008.
Physical Description:
329 p. ; 22 cm.
Reading Level:
940 L Lexile
Added Author:
Cylin and John Busby share the challenges they faced after their family was forced into hiding to protect themselves from a killer who had already shot John, a police officer, and was determined to finish the job.


Material Type
Call Number
Item Available
Book 363.2092 BUS 1 1
Book YA 363.2092 BUS 1 1

On Order



When Cylin Busby was nine years old, she loved Izod shirts, the Muppets, and her pet box turtle. Then, in the space of a night, everything that was normal about her life changed. Her police officer father, John, was driving to his midnight shift when someone pulled up alongside and leveled a shotgun at his window. The blasts that followed tore through his face and left him clinging to life. Overnight, the Busbys went from being the "family next door" to one under twenty-four-hour armed guard,with police escorts to and from school and no contact with friends. Worse, the shooter was still on the loose, and it seemed only a matter of time before he'd come after John-or someone else in the family-again. With their lives unraveling around them and few choices remaining for a future that could ever be secure, the Busby family left everything and everyone they had ever known...and simply disappeared.

As told by both father and daughter, this is a harrowing, at times heartbreaking, account of a shooting and its aftermath-even as it shows a young girl trying to make sense of the unthinkable and the triumph of a family's bravery in the face of crisis.

Author Notes

Cylin Busby is the author of several non-fiction articles as well as fiction books. A former editor with Teen m agazine, she now lives in Los Angeles with her family.

John Busby lives in an undisclosed location.

Reviews 5

Publisher's Weekly Review

No one with even a marginal interest in true crime writing should miss this page-turner, by turns shocking and almost unbearably sad. In 1979, in an underworld-style hit, a gunman shot John Busby, a policeman in Cape Cod; a fluke saved John's life, but he was permanently disfigured and disabled, and the family placed under 24-hour protection. Eventually the family went into hiding in Tennessee, but arguably their "disappearance" takes place long before they move--as John and his daughter, Cylin, alternately narrate, readers can see how the shooting erased the family's sense of themselves. John is consumed with anger at the police's refusal to pursue the likeliest suspects ("and [I] planned to stay angry until I got back at the bastards who did this to me"); Cylin, then nine, is baffled as she and her two older brothers attract unwelcome attention ("Everyone thinks your dad is going to die," a cousin tells her. "But you're lucky--you don't have to go to school") and are later forsaken as classmates' parents deem friendship with them too risky. Where John's chapters provide the grim facts, it is Cylin's authentically childlike perspective that, in revealing the cost to her innocence, renders the tragic experience most searingly. Ages 14-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Horn Book Review

(High School) Cape Cod police officer John Busby was driving to work one night in 1979 when a car pulled alongside his and a passenger in the other car blasted off the lower half of his face with a shotgun. The chapters in which Busby narrates this brutal act and the harrowing medical treatment that saves his life (but still leaves him unable to eat and talk normally until future reconstructive surgeries) have a gory immediacy. Unfortunately, later sections get bogged down in mapping out the corruption within the Falmouth police force that allows the likely perpetrator, a notorious local criminal, to remain at large. This material is relayed in an occasionally cliched, hardboiled tone ("I worked with Arthur and Mickey for years, both of them good guys on the right side of the law, so when the two of them came to see me, I knew they weren't there to talk about the weather") and seems better suited to a memoir for adults. The more nuanced and arguably more wrenching chapters come from daughter Cylin, nine years old at the time of the shooting. The security measures put in place to keep the shooter from further vengeful action change Cylin's relatively carefree life to a kind of prison in which armed officers guard her house round the clock, escort her onto the school bus, and trail her and her mother through the mall. Readers eventually follow the family to rural Tennessee, where they relocate for their safety, but Cylin's account of how she and her brothers adjust to this drastic move is frustratingly brief. Perhaps if her story had unfolded in its own volume rather than alongside her father's, it could have expanded to fully convey the price she paid to live free from fear. Both father and daughter have riveting stories to tell in this gritty memoir, but the book's tag-team format ultimately shortchanges each of them. From HORN BOOK, (c) Copyright 2010. The Horn Book, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Booklist Review

Before August 31, 1979, nine-year-old Cylin's biggest worry was avoiding her grumpy neighbor. Then her family's life changed forever when her father, a Cape Cod policeman, was shot on his drive to work. Horribly injured, with most of his lower jaw blown away, John Busby somehow managed to stop his car and run for help. Although John was convinced he knew his attacker's identity, the investigation mysteriously stalled, and the Busby family was given 24-hour protection during the long experimental effort to reconstruct John's face. Eventually the family went into hiding, starting over in another state. In alternating chapters, John and Cylin Busby tell the story of John's ordeal and the devastating impact on his family. John's laconic, just-the-facts-ma'am style underscores the horror he was enduring, while Cylin's perspective drives home the fear and emotional misery the family suffered. The appalling physical injuries may deter the squeamish, but this riveting story will stay with readers, particularly its message that John's anger and desire for revenge were the hardest wounds to heal.--Rutan, Lynn Copyright 2008 Booklist

School Library Journal Review

Gr 9 Up-On August 31, 1979, tough cop John Busby was shot at close range while driving to work on Cape Cod. Bleeding profusely with the lower half of his face blown off, he realized that somebody wanted him dead, and identified a brazen local bully as the culprit, an arsonist with whose family Busby had clashed on the job. John and his daughter, Cylin, who was nine at the time of the shooting, recount the year that followed in alternating chapters, incorporating candid commentary and sometimes-disturbing detail about a crime that never resulted in arrests. With the entire Busby family under 24-hour police protection, John began the reconstructive surgeries that would stretch for years, while Cylin and her two brothers tried to cope with guards accompanying them to school and the resulting social isolation. John Busby is frank about the corruption in the local police department that let his attacker intimidate anyone he chose, and bluntly describes his frustration and need for revenge in the months following the attack. Cylin speaks with a voice of innocence shattered as she struggles to comprehend what happened to her family and why her friends have abandoned her. When the town balked at the continuing expense of providing personal protection and the constant fear brought the family to the breaking point, the Busbys went into hiding, seeking a return to some semblance of normalcy. The page-turner pace is frequently interrupted by awkwardly placed flashbacks to moments in John's police work, but, ultimately, this is a story of survival and triumph.-Joyce Adams Burner, Hillcrest Library, Prairie Village, KS (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Kirkus Review

In 1979, John Busby, a Falmouth, Mass., cop was shot in the face while driving to work. This alternating father-daughter memoir provides a graphic account of the event and its yearlong aftermath--both directly attributable to a corruption-riddled municipal government. Readers should know that the book depicts Busby's shooting, injuries and reconstructive surgeries in unrelenting detail. Until the family was secretly relocated, Cylin, nine, and her brothers struggled to manage an intolerable burden of fear, even under 24-hour police protection. The account ends before readers learn how (or if) they made it to adulthood in one piece. Beyond recounting a fascinating, if lurid, tabloid story, neither author offers any analysis or reflection that would allow readers to place the events in a larger context. At once competitive, stubborn and aggressive, Busby's personality seems to have both prompted the shooting and helped him survive it. The implications of governmental corruption go unnoted, including the official response to the shooting itself--protecting the family with taxpayer-funded firearms and police surveillance, rather than institutional reform. (Memoir. 14 & up) Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.