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BOOK REVIEW: The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst

| 16 December 2014 | Reply

BOOK REVIEW: The Lost by Sarah Beth Durst 

Harlequin Mira
May 2014, $21.95 AUD
Reviewed by Steph O’Connell



THIS is what a quirky, dry humoured character SHOULD be.

Plot: Lauren Chase didn’t make plans to travel into the desert, she just decided not to turn at the traffic lights on her way to work and kept on driving. Until she was lost. Until she found herself in a town called Lost. Where the people are crazy, the dust storm never ends, and everything that’s ever gone missing goes to be found.

This book was incredibly well written, and at no point did I find myself thinking that things were unrealistic, at least for the world they inhabited. Of course some things were unrealistic, they’re in a town where lost things go, but it all felt so very real.


Ok, before I gush all over the place, let’s have a look at the things that bothered me or weren’t explained properly (YET! There’s hope for the second and third books to do so):

The person in room 12: This is something that comes up right at the start of the novel. Room 12 at the motel has a longstanding lease of sorts, and there’s someone in there, someone we’re not meant to bother. But we never do find out, in book one at least.

Her infatuation with Peter: Every single time she meets him for the first half of the book, she mentions how beautiful he is:

“His chest is decorated in a swirl of black feather tattoos, and he’s almost unbearably beautiful.”

“He is as stunningly beautiful in the darkness as he was in the storm.”

“He reminds me of light on the water, flashing and changing and unpredictable and beautiful.”

I get it, he’s gorgeous. And you know what, when faced with a gorgeous mysterious guy like Peter, I would probably keep thinking those things too. I think my problem was that we were reminded every time we saw him. Like, “Here’s Peter, he’s the mysterious, gorgeous one.”

Yes, we know who he is.

For the record, I’m a little bit in love with Peter too, Lauren. I’ve never really used the term “book boyfriend” before, but…

The ambiguous explanation of Lost: Everything that’s lost goes to the town of the same name. Car keys, leftover food, dreams, houses. And at one point the character wonders if something in particular will show up in lost. Then she remembers how she threw it away, didn’t lose it, so it can’t.

But… Do people really “lose” the last bit of their cheeseburger? An apple with a bite out of it? I understand that these things needed to show up, because otherwise the people of Lost wouldn’t be able to eat, but it bothered me a little.

Also, when it comes to things like houses, some seemed to have been lost to foreclosure, some to murder, and so on. I’m guessing they could only be figuratively lost, like “the memory of home” was lost. When a house is foreclosed it still exists in the real world, usually, it just doesn’t exist for its previous owners.

The Missing Man: I’d like further explanation of why The Missing Man walked away. I like to think I know, but it was never explained outright.

Despite these things, I LOVED this book. It could be the contrast between this book and the one I had struggled through beforehand, but I never found myself exasperated at how stupid someone in the book was, I never found myself bored, and that was a hugely welcome relief!


Some of the things I loved:

The Writing: It felt witty, punchy, natural, and like a breath of fresh air after some of the really forced writing I’ve had to give up on of late.

The Concept: This was a slight twist on the old trope of a town you can never leave, as well as another overdone plot device that I can’t mention for fear of spoiling this. However, the power of the story wasn’t in its twists on cliches, but rather in its people.


The Characters:

I liked Lauren’s method of telling the story, but I also loved the people she encountered:

Peter, the completely gorgeous guy who talks in riddles, fairytales, and nursery rhymes. Who is reminiscent in ways of J.M. Barrie’s original lost boy, and so ancient and tired in others. Who has a habit of being there when you really need him, but never gives you a straight answer. Who is damaged in his own way by this town he calls home.

“Why are you here, Little Red?” he asks. “Not the universe here, but here here. Or perhaps the universe here, since that would explain it.”
“Just trying to get home,” I say.
“Poor damsel. You’re doing it wrong.” He sounds amused.

Claire, the little girl who “lost” her parents, and has had to learn to scavenge and survive in the town called Lost. A lot like Peter in that she still has childish fun, but knows when to put down the toys and pick up the knife. The little girl who just wants to be a part of a family again.

“It’s not a nice song, is it? Babies shouldn’t fall.”
“It’s not nice,” I agree.
“Wonder why it was written that way. Much better, ‘When the bough breaks, the cradle will fly, and up will go baby, into the sky.’”

Lauren’s Mother has cancer and she’s come to terms with it, though Lauren has a hard time even saying the word “dying”. Having accepted her fate, Mrs. Chase sees the funny side to everything, and doesn’t dwell on the negativity. This makes for some very touching scenes between Lauren and her mother, and just adds to the heartbreak of the situation.

“Everyone makes exceptions when you’re dying,” Mom says with satisfaction. “It’s as if every statement I utter is a last request that has to be honored. I’m thinking of asking for something completely ludicrous, like for the entire staff to dress in medieval garb.”
“There might be rules against that.”
“Who would think to make a rule about not wearing medieval garb? I’m betting that it hasn’t come up before. After me, they might make a rule about it. Maybe they’ll name it after me. I’d be immortalized in the hospital employee handbook.”

Each of these people(even the guy who often talked in riddles), and some of the others besides, all felt incredibly real to me. They all felt like there was more below the surface that we were just starting to see. At one point I yelled at something that Lauren had done, which earned me a confused look from my boyfriend, and later on I was in tears and then laughing, sometimes both at once. These characters forced their way into my heart and refused to let me go, and I want to meet them.

For the duration of the book I was interested, for the duration of the book I was entertained, and when I found myself all out of duration, I didn’t want to leave Lost.

I would like to immediately lose my memory of this book so that I could go back to the start and read it all over again. I can NOT wait for the next installment.

Commence impatient nail biting, now.



Category: Book Reviews, Other Reviews

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