All I could think about every time I considered Sara Zarr's Once Was Lost was the completion of the line with 'but now am found.' That title set up an expectation that her book never quite fulfilled but hinted at. Maybe there will be a sequel with that title. Nonetheless, the book didn't leave me at all dissatisfied for not having fulfilled the "being found" part, because the book left me with the distinct impression that Sam could find her her way, whatever it might be, wherever it might take her.
The book is about young teenage Samara Taylor --- Sam --- during a time that she justifiably felt lost. Her mother is an alcoholic who is committed to a rehab facility. Sam misses her mother. Sam's father is a pastor who in some ways acts very pastorally and in other ways seems and is just as incapacitated and irresponsible as his committed wife, maybe even more so. On top of all of that, there is a crisis of major proportions in the community --- a young teenage girl goes missing --- that impacts Sam and her father, the pastor, and everybody else. This mystery also propels the story forward.
Zarr's writing is subtle and sensitive. I was very impressed with her ability to create believable and realistic characters that weren't extreme or caricatures.
I am a sixty-one-year-old man who doesn't typically read in this genre or books written for this audience. Yet I didn't feel lost or like an alien reading the story and learning to better understand the mindset of its young female protagonist teenager.
Great job, Sara Zarr.
Matt Kirby recommended this book. His first published book, The Clockwork Three, will be released October 1, 2010.