Monday, November 24, 2014

Book Review: The Lost

It was only meant to be a brief detour. But then Lauren finds herself trapped in a town called Lost on the edge of a desert, filled with things abandoned, broken and thrown away. And when she tries to escape, impassable dust storms and something unexplainable lead her back to Lost again and again. The residents she meets there tell her she's going to have to figure out just what she's missing--and what she's running from--before she can leave. So now Lauren's on a new search for a purpose and a destiny. And maybe, just maybe, she'll be found...

Against the backdrop of this desolate and mystical town, Sarah Beth Durst writes an arresting, fantastical novel of one woman's impossible journey...and her quest to find her fate.

When I first picked up this book I was reminded of the cover to another book I enjoyed, SISTER EMILY'S LIGHTSHIP by Jane Yolen.  Its in fact a collection of Yolen's shorter fiction and as part of the hardcover artwork there's a quote that reminded me of his book. "I lost a word the other day, has anybody found? You'll know it by the row of stars around its forehead bound" 

Have you ever lost something?  Sure you have. Toys, clothes, socks, and office supplies. But what about something less material and more of a...feeling almost.  More insubstantial and possibly not as easily noticed.  In the town of Lost everybody has lost that something insubstantial.  Some have lost their "good luck", others have lost their feeling of family and belonging, while still others have lost their belief in something.  The Missing Man can help you once you've figured it out, but that's the trick.  When its intangible how do you figure out what you lost that was so monumental that you wound up in a town called Lost?

I wasn't sure I'd like Lauren at first.  Oh she's a fine enough person, but what she was running from--her mother's illness and impending death--I couldn't fathom ever feeling that way.  I'm an emotional coward, don't think otherwise, but that's a responsibility and I've never run from that. Not when it matters at least.  So I had trouble connecting with her and her constant "I need to get home", but then refusing to handle what that would mean.  

Peter, aka "The Finder", is manic and crazy and scattered with logic that defies convention and scruples predicated mostly on if he thinks you're interesting enough to bother with.  Luckily with the help of Claire--who I spent most of the book picturing looking like a Little Sister from BioShock--Peter finds Lauren interesting enough to invest time in.  Which is doubly good since the town's savior, the Missing Man, gave Lauren the literal cut direct in front of the entire town.  And when the savior of the town is like "Don't want!" and disappears you can be damned sure the town will turn feral and attempt to kill you.  A lot.

Durst, who has exploded the airy floaty from one thought to another thought blend of narrative before, follows a story path that's at first hard to get a handle on.  Lauren weaves in and out of her memories before/during/after her mother's diagnosis with very little warning, much like in life when something hits you and reminds you strongly of a memory without warning.  It can get a bit vexing, since most of Lauren's memories are then added with "I can't lose her" denial or her mother's gallows humor that Lauren didn't appreciate.

The ending comes at you in a rush.  Things are resolved, broken, ended and found all in rapid succession as the choices Lauren makes effect everyone around her in not always great ways. She seems a half step behind on all her decisions, making the right ones at the wrong time.  

Also this book is the very definition of "framily".  You'll see what I mean.