Michelle's Review: Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

oncewaslost Trade Paperback: 244 pages
Publisher: Little Brown for Young Readers

Release Date: Jan. 4, 2011
Source of my copy: publisher
Synopsis (from Amazon)

As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy into the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reasons 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 goes missing, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and the already worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel.
In her third novel, acclaimed author Sara Zarr examines the coexistence of affliction and hope, and what happens when everything you thought you believed—about God, your family, and yourself—is transformed.

Michelle's Review:
Once Was Lost was my first Christian-themed read and I really liked it. Our first person narrator was 15-year-old Samara Taylor who was going through a lot of problems including that fact that she's questioning her faith. Her family was far from the perfect one they pretend to be and while her dad, the pastor, seemed to have all the time and all the right words for those in the congregation, when it comes to his own family he's always too busy and often turns a blind eye to problems going on at home. Before her mom landed in rehab, Sam had to take care of her when she overindulged but when her mom Sam felt more alone than ever and she thinks she may be depressed. When Jody Shaw was kidnapped in town, shock and suspicion falls over the community. With her dad immersed in the helping the Jody's family and the community through their terrible time, Sam must work through her internal turmoil, convince her mom to come home and get her family back together.

Although there was the side plot of Jody Shaw's kidnapping, it's ultimately Sam's story. She was flawed, realistic and though I thought she was mature, I believed she was a 15-year-old. She felt alone and misunderstood--her friends think she's a goody-goody just because she's the pastor's daughter and they leave her behind with some of the things they do. She didn't feel the same about her religion the way she did when she was younger and felt guilty. She doesn't really have anyone to talk to and her dad was too busy taking care of everyone else. I understood Sam and I knew exactly how she felt because I went through the myriad of confusion about faith myself and I thought the author captured her inner turmoil perfectly. The questions she asked in the book, I myself asked at one point or other in my life.

I usually stay way from realistic fiction like this book and I was afraid this book was going to be sad and depressing but it wasn't at all. Once Was Lost was a thoughtful story of faith, love, family and redemption. I really enjoyed the unhurried way the author told Sam's story--it was well-paced and at only 244 pages it felt like a longer novel (but in a good way--it's more a "full meal" type of book than a snack). The ending wasn't tied up all nice and neat and some questions remained but it's hopeful and happy. If you're looking for a quick yet heartfelt read look no further than Once Was Lost. 4 out 5 stars

1 comment

  1. This is a new title for me and although I have only read one other Christian based book and did not care a whole lot for it, the relationships you discussed in this one has me thinking I would enjoy the story. Thanks for a terrific review.


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