Friday, October 16, 2009

Once Was Lost - Sara Zarr

Found delight in Zarr’s storytelling

Once Was Lost
Author: Sara Zarr
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Pages: 217

The small town of Pineview is in a heat wave, and flowers are not the only thing wilting.

Fifteen-year-old Sam is feeling the absence of her mother, who is in rehab after her drinking finally led to an accident. Her dad, a pastor who always seems to have an answer for everyone else, never has the right words for her. Suddenly, the whole town is reeling from a tragedy that no one can explain. It’s like the day after 9/11; nothing will ever be the same.

Sam goes beyond doubting the religious convictions that have always been part of her life. She tells herself, “This is something I’ve never felt before, a total absence of whatever it is that’s made me who I am, on the inside, all my life.” Thoughts like this are a highlight of the book. Sara Zarr gives us the honest, questioning monologue of one who is searching.

The light exploration of spirituality never feels artificial or forced. This pays more attention to story and character development, which makes scattered observations more compelling. I never lost interest, and Zarr kept me guessing.

Thankfully, she leaves sordid events to the imagination, never getting graphic. On the other hand, she interjects a sobering realism that avoids fairytale endings. Sam could see the shadows that were left: “It makes me think of Lazarus. He must have had those shadows, too, after, his miracle. You don’t spend time in the tomb without it changing you, and everyone who was waiting for you to come out.”

This third novel of Sara Zarr’s was the first fiction book that I have read in some time, and this reminded me of the pleasure I have missed.
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