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Putting pen to paper to preserve Ryan Shtuka’s memory

Heather Shtuka has written a book about the first year of son Ryan’s disappearance while in Sun Peaks
Heather Shtuka, Ryan’s mom. (Photo contributed)

Michael Potestio/Kamloops This Week

Heather Shtuka would love it if someone in a library 100 years from now dusts off the cover of the book she has written about her missing son to learn about the person he was.

It is a medium she feels will help keep his memory around for future generations.

Nearly five years ago, Heather’s son, Ryan Shtuka, vanished at Sun Peaks during a house party on Burfield Drive. The 20-year-old Beaumont, Alta., man disappeared in the early morning hours of Feb. 17, 2018. Mounties have not ruled out foul play, but have not reported finding anything suspicious and Ryan’s disappearance remains a mystery.

Parents Heather and Scott Shtuka have made continual trips to Sun Peaks over the years to conduct searches in the resort municipality, trying to find signs of their son — all to no avail.

Heather has now written Missing From Me, a book that chronicles the first year of Ryan’s disappearance. After just a few weeks, the book has already become a top seller on Amazon book lists for memoirs, grief and motherhood.

“I didn’t expect within 24 hours the book would go to a bestseller on,” Heather said, adding she was taken aback to see her son’s story sitting fourth on a list that included memoirs by Michelle Obama, Tyler Perry and Prince Harry.

Part of the reason Heather decided to write the book was to ensure Ryan’s legacy is left behind, not only for his family, but for many others whose lives he touched, she told KTW.

Heather began writing the book in March 2020, when COVID-19 lockdowns forced people inside their homes.

“I sat down, my husband encouraged me to put pen to paper and I started writing,” Heather said. “I thought it was going to be hard and, when you’re in it, the memories start flooding back.”

The writing process took about a year and Missing From Me has been available since Nov. 27.

Heather initially ordered 250 hard copies, wary of the cost of ordering too many, and was surprised by the demand. Within a day of receiving the box of books in mid-December, 172 copies had already been reserved.

“I think I underestimated how many people would like to have a copy,” Heather said, noting she has ordered another 250 copies due to demand.

The book is broken into three parts: Part one discusses the family dynamic. Part two covers the four-month period in 2018 between the day the family learned Ryan was missing to the day they left Sun Peaks. Part three covers how the family transitioned back to their everyday lives while trying to maintain search efforts.

Missing From Me utilizes daily posts Heather made on social media during the first four months of Ryan’s disappearance. Those, she said, were important to include, as they represent real-time accounts of what she was feeling and what was happening at the time — not just her recollections.

Heather said she feels writing the book was cathartic for her and helped the entire family grieve by giving them an outlet to remember Ryan beyond the fact he went missing.

She said she chose to write a book as it is a medium she has loved her whole life, feeling they create a kind of magic in the way they immerse someone in a story.

“They last beyond time,” Heather said. “You can always pick them up no matter where you’ve gone.”

Missing from Me is available online from Amazon, Barnes and Noble and Chapters.

-Michael Potestio, Kamloops This Week

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