Published by Hachette on January 27, 2015
Source: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review consideration.
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Millie Bird is a seven-year-old girl who always wears red wellington boots to match her red, curly hair. But one day, Millie’s mum leaves her alone beneath the Ginormous Women’s underwear rack in a department store, and doesn’t come back.
Agatha Pantha is an eighty-two-year-old woman who hasn’t left her home since her husband died. Instead, she fills the silence by yelling at passers-by, watching loud static on TV, and maintaining a strict daily schedule. Until the day Agatha spies a little girl across the street.
Karl the Touch Typist is eighty-seven years old and once typed love letters with his fingers on to his wife’s skin. He sits in a nursing home, knowing that somehow he must find a way for life to begin again. In a moment of clarity and joy, he escapes.
Together, Millie, Agatha and Karl set out to find Millie’s mum. Along the way, they will discover that the young can be wise, that old age is not the same as death, and that breaking the rules once in a while might just be the key to a happy life.
In her grief over her husband’s death, Millie’s mother abandons her 7-year-old in a department store and never returns. Millie soon meets 87-year-old Karl, who has escaped from a nursing home, and 82-year-old Agatha, a recluse who hasn’t left her home since her husband died. The three of them team up and set out on a road trip to find Millie’s mother.
I knew Lost & Found was going to be a tough read as soon as I read that premise. It was also, as the back of my review copy perfectly summarizes, “an irresistible and heartfelt debut novel about the wisdom of the very young, the mischief of the very old, and the magic that happens along the way.” Karl reminded me of Allan in The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared; as did Agatha, actually. The two books share that slightly unbelievable sense of adventure — just unbelievable enough to be delightful. Toward the end of the book, the interaction between Karl and Agatha became a teensy bit too cute (maybe even contrived) for my taste, but there was always a sweet, slightly awkward air between them that fondly reminded me of Eleanor & Park.
The issues these characters are dealing with (loss, grief, aging, quality of life) is almost suffocating at times. Yet there’s a lightness present in this book, too. Davis uses these characters to remind us that the darkness of our problems can consume us, but it doesn’t have to. That grief and happiness aren’t mutually exclusive. Millie is the perfect protagonist for this novel; her age, the way she behaves and reacts, the way she sees the world, gives the adults around her (and we readers) an opportunity to explore uncomfortable feelings and questions. Millie forces us to face our discomfort by doing and saying things we restrain ourselves from, or completely avoid. At the same time, there were many, many opportunities to laugh while reading this book. That felt strange. . .it also felt honest and cathartic.
Lost & Found is crushing. It’s funny. It’s sweet. It’s devastating. It’s perceptive and thought-provoking. It has the potential to make us more sensitive to what others may be going through, and it helps us look inward to deal with difficult topics we all eventually face.