Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr (final thoughts)
From the author’s website:
Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things. As a pastor’s kid, it’s hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reason to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town is kidnapped, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam’s personal one, and the already-worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel.
I’m going to start right off with saying that I not only did I love this book, I appreciated it. When I finished Once Was Lost I immediate tweeted: “I wish this book had been around when I was a teen.” Two weeks later, I still stand by that statement.
Why did I appreciate it so much? I don’t think I could articulate it better than Amy did in her review:
“Reading books opens windows into the lives of others but we also read to know we’re not alone. Sometimes an author manages to capture a character enough..in their culture, in their thoughts, and actions that our hearts identify…like me.”
As a pastor’s kid, I’ve never read a book from that perspective. Or if I have, it wasn’t honest or real enough to stick with me. However, only a few pages into this book I had an overwhelming urge to check that my teenaged diaries were safely locked up in my parents garage, because surely Zarr used them for research. No, my experience as a PK hasn’t been exactly the same as Sam’s was, but Zarr totally nailed the insecurities, pressure, and lack of privacy that comes with being part of a pastor’s family. I really think my teenaged self would have benefited from reading this book. Heck, even my late-twenties self benefited from reading it.
Sam was completely believable as a teenaged girl, full of insecurities, loyalties and crushes. The doubts she had weren’t anything new, but her struggle with them felt genuine. And I really can’t think of another book I’ve read that dealt with a teen, or adult for that matter, struggling with doubts of faith so honestly.
I liked how the mystery of the kidnapping played into the story. It wasn’t about Sam becoming Little Miss Detective and solving the case. It was about the effect it had on this one girl and her community, and how it became the backdrop to the summer during which everything she trusted unraveled. At the same time the mystery wasn’t anything I could figure out while I was reading, Zarr had me guessing right until the end.
I borrowed Once Was Lost from the library, but it’s one I’m going to add to my own collection. I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to read something by Sara Zarr and it definitely won’t be my last.
My rating: 9/10