You Were Lost; You Are Found

I often say that I really enjoy Sarah Beth Durst's books, but then I realize I've only read one of them: Ice.  I loved it--she did a fantastic job with one of my very favorite fairy tales, "East of the Sun and West of the Moon."  A lot of her other books are on my TBR, so it's kind of like we've been acquainted, just haven't gone on any dates yet.

When I saw The Lost on Netgalley, I pounced.  I wasn't quite sure what I'd find, and even now, I'm still processing what I read.  That's a good thing.

Lauren Chase is twenty-seven years old, in a job that she hates, and her mom is in remission from ovarian cancer.  Her life isn't awful, but she's not happy.  One day, when her mom says that she needs to talk to Lauren about some test results, Lauren can't deal.  Instead of turning onto the road that would take her to work, she keeps driving.  And driving.  And driving.  After hitting a massive dust storm, she finds herself in the city of Lost.  Of course, all is not as it seems.

Lost is, well, where all of the lost things and people go.  That mitten that mysteriously disappeared?  It's in Lost.  Bigger things go there too.  Houses lost to foreclosure.  Children lost in a tragedy.  You.  You've lost some vital part of your soul, so you end up in Lost.

That doesn't mean you can't go home again (holla Flannery!).  You just need the Missing Man, who's kind of like the Santa Claus of Lost, to send you back.  However, there's a catch.  You can only go back after you've figured out or found what you lost.  When Lauren arrives in Lost, she doesn't quite understand what's happened to her.  I mean, if you've abandoned your mom who probably is dying of cancer, and you've driven for hours and arrived in a new town, your first thought probably isn't, "I'm in some sort of existential limbo where all the lost things go."  She thinks it's just a quirky town.  Well, the diner isn't super friendly, and the girl at the hotel seems to be stuck in the '80s, but, you know.  Every town is different.  It's not until the Missing Man walks into the diner, sees Lauren, and skedaddles that she knows something is seriously wrong.  This guy books it when he sees her, causing everyone in town to FREAK OUT.  Your first day in a new town shouldn't end with a chase scene and a mob.

Lauren befriends Claire, a little girl with a penchant for teddy bears and knives (for real) and Peter, the man in black who she saw in the dust storm while coming into Lost.
"The man is dressed in a black trench coat that falls to his ankles.  Beneath the coat he wears black jeans and is bare-chested.  His chest is decorated in a swirl of black feather tattoos, and he is almost unbearably beautiful."
There is a romance with Peter, and Lauren often refers to his dark and brooding hotness, but the rest of the story was so good that I (gasp!) didn't really mind this.  However, Lauren doesn't trust him right away (smart girl) and actually *thinks* about their relationship.  I'm peeling my jaw off of the floor.  This is so rare.  When Peter says something extra romantic, she says, "It's a line from a dozen romantic movies, and if I were the romantic sort, this is where I would swoon, take his hand, and pledge my devotion.  I'm not romantic, but I'm also not stupid.  So I take his hand and lie."  

Talking about an ex-boyfriend, Lauren muses about people who wonder "why I broke up with that boyfriend that everyone thought was better than sliced bread.  He wasn't.  But he thought he was, too.  And he took my best pair of sunglasses when he left.  He didn't respect me.  Certainly didn't respect my dreams.  He might have respected my sunglasses."

Claire becomes both Lauren's little sister and bodyguard.  I particularly liked how Lauren treated Claire: as an equal.  "I am not going to lie to her.  I always hated when adults did that to kids--all the classic lies, like you can be anything you want to be and work hard enough and good things will come to you, and all the little lies, like you're smart, you're beautiful, you're special."  Amen, Lauren Chase.

 Both Lauren and Peter are exceptionally well-read, and sometimes they have entire conversations in book quotes, which tickles my librarian heart.  Peter openly acknowledges his similarity to Peter Pan, but it's not explicitly stated that he is Peter Pan.

I also loved Lauren's sense of humor.  I could relate to her: "I am not lucky.  I always pick the longest checkout line, the one where the woman at the front of the line has fifty expired coupons and intends to argue each one ... Traffic lights turn red when I approach."  She's tough but fragile, which definitely shows.  She's an artist who lost her art and toils away at a desk job.  Money over soul, and if you're mom is dying of cancer and needs treatment, what are you going to do?  Her musings on makeup were also hilarious:

"I've always worn makeup.  As a teen, I'd apply black eye goop as if t were Egyptian kohl.  Now that I'm a professional woman--which makes me sound like an assassin or a whore, either of which have to be more interesting than my actual job--I use 'natural' colors, dusting them over my cheekbones and eyelids."

You might have guessed some things about Lauren already, but the whole point of the book is self-discovery.  We are most blind when it comes to truths about ourselves.  The book's plot is not: what will happen to Lauren? but: how will Lauren figure out who she is and what she needs?

The last quarter of the book surprised me a bit.  I felt, at first, as though things were resolved too quickly.  Then I realized I was jumping to conclusions a bit.  Durst shows us what we often don't see after a character's venture into some sort of magical world: the aftermath in the "real world."  This is the part that made me cry.  Lauren's mom is definitely one of those "force of nature" women, and I believed in her completely.  Like she could step of the page and be a completely real, living woman in front of me, and we would have hilarious conversations and she would set me up with random passersby.

Now I just have to wait FOREVER (slight exaggeration) for the next book.  Please hurry.


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