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Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr (final thoughts)

December 3, 2010

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 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

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10 Comments leave one →
  1. December 3, 2010 3:35 pm

    Wow this looks like a great book! Very nice review too! I will definitely have to check this one out. It seems like its very easy to identify and relate with Sam, and I really like characters like that, they can help to further draw you into the story. I have not read anything by Sara Zarr before either.

  2. December 3, 2010 5:04 pm

    I read another favorable review of this one and have been meaning to read it !! Loved your post!!

  3. December 3, 2010 11:20 pm

    It’s a little surreal, and very cool, when you find that book you connect with. I’ve come across them, and have always had to have my own copy.

  4. Sig aka Mom permalink
    December 4, 2010 9:01 am

    This is on my books I want to read list now. Thanks for the thoughtful and honest review. Sounds like it could be recommended reading for all pk’s (and their parents).

  5. December 4, 2010 12:30 pm

    I’ll have to check this one out! A good friend of mine is a PW and she used to always worry about the pressure on her kids since they were PKs. They’ve all grown up to be great people.

  6. December 5, 2010 8:08 am

    Sounds interesting! I’ve had some good experiences with Sara Zarr in the past. My recollection is that she writes with a lot of emotional honesty, and doesn’t take the easy/obvious way out of the situations she invents. So that’s nice about her. :)

  7. December 5, 2010 9:30 pm

    I hadn’t heard of this but it does sound good. I appreciate your review.

  8. stacybuckeye permalink
    December 27, 2010 10:09 am

    How great that this resonated so deeply with you. It’s the first review I’ve seen.


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