Once Was Lost is a new YA literary fiction release by acclaimed author Sara Zarr.
Sam's mother is in rehab after a DUI that brought her longtime problem to light in a small town where news travels fast. Her father, a local pastor, doesn't seem as invested in Sam as he is in his congregation. Sam struggles with the hypocrisy and her sudden lack of faith in the belief system she has held since infancy. She misses her mother terribly - because even though she had to sometimes help her put on her lipstick when her hands shook too badly, living alone with her dad is like living with a stranger she knows too well.
But then a thirteen-year-old soloist in the church choir goes missing, and Sam's faith falters even more. Sam joins in the search, but nothing seems to keep her from feeling as though she is sinking into nothingness...
Once Was Lost has a deeply somber, realistically depressed tone about it. At first it is hard to grasp Sam's character as she is almost invisible within the heavy fog of hurt and doubt, but her pain is sympathetic. And the cloud of hypocrisy lingers over each side of the line, slowly peeling away the judgment and instead acknowledging human weakness. It is written exquisitely by Sara Zarr, and is fantastic for fans of Sarah Dessen. Of which I most definitely am one.
When Jody, the thirteen-year-old girl who goes missing, disappears, the portrayal is unglamorous and stark. It feels unsettlingly real. The cameras, the fear, the suspicion, the dreading the worst, the mobs of people you've never met crying at the public vigil - Zarr presents it all without gloss.
As someone who knows God exists, the doubting and questioning of God that Sam's character does was sometimes a bit much for me. However, Sam's character kept me invested and I didn't feel as if Sara was laying out a view or an opinion, but rather relaying a journey of Sam's tired soul.
There is a lyrical, truly sad prose about Once Was Lost that makes it both hard to put down and hard to read. It is haunting and believable - and I was honestly scared to find out what happened to Jody, and who it was in the town that abducted her.
By the end, I was convinced with this lovely novel that ends in a way that I will in no way spoil - but left me the urge to cry. I encourage all you perfectly insane bibliophiles to read Once Was Lost and find out for yourself how it all ends up.
*I received a review copy of Once Was Lost from Hatchette Book Group. Their generosity in no way influenced, nor sought to influence, my opinion of the novel.