Lost and Found
Random House UK, Cornerstone
UK Pub Date: Jan 29 2015
Due out in January, there is already a head of steam behind Australian Brooke Davis’ debut novel Lost and Found. It’s already been a smash at home and I strongly suspect it will be a big hit in the UK too Believe me, one of your friends will either buy you this or recommend you read it during 2015. It is a story about how three people who have suffered a loss come together in an unconventional road trip.
Millie Bird is a red-headed seven year old obsessed by death. Following the death of the family dog, she starts to keep a book of dead things to note down and remembers things that have died. Early into the novel she has to add her dad to the list. A big loss, and one that is followed shortly afterwards by her mother abandoning her in a department store – she leaves Millie by the ladies lingerie section and tells her to wait because she’ll be back soon. She sits under a display and waits but her mother does not return. Day turns to night turn to day and still her mother does not reappear. She’s all alone.
Until, that is, see encounters Karl (the Touch Typist) an eighty-seven year old widower who roams the department store for something to do and to escape the monotony of life in a nursing home. He is morning the loss of his wife and soul mate Evie and can’t find a purpose in life. He helps Millie escape the store and the imminent threat of social services. Then she meets Agatha Pantha, an eighty-two-year-old woman, who lives across the road from her. She too is mourning the loss of her spouse, and has become a bit of a recluse, and someone who spends her days staring from behind her curtains and shouting insults and random comments at passes by.
To cut to the chase, this intrepid and partly decrepit trio set out across Australia to find Millie’s mum.
The novel, inspired by Davis’s grief over the sudden death of her mother in a freak accident in 2006, and written for her doctorate at Curtin University is a lovely and touching read. Davis writes well about grief and loss and how if left unaddressed can become all consuming. Her road trip tale is quirky and funny, although there is a fine line between quirky and annoying and I’m certain for some readers they will feel it’s a line that has been crossed and that Davis’ book is too cute for its own good (although if the acknowledgments at the end of the book are to be believed it was previously even more cute). Yes, some reader will really take against this book. Whether its Millie leaving ‘In Here Mum’ messages everywhere, Agatha’s Age Book, Manny the mannequin or the plane preposterousness of the entire plot, some people will be savage and unforgiving.
Not me. I entered into the spirit of the book and as a result felt carried along in a ‘Little Miss Sunshine ‘ way [and don’t be surprised to see this book made into film in the not too distant future]. I liked the fact that two pensioners have lead roles. Agatha and Karl made me smile. I liked their contrasting ways of dealing with their grief and their differing means of showing their love for their passed partners. I liked the innocence of Millie. I liked the supporting cast of oddballs and misfits, some with their own issues of loss and grief. Perhaps it is the mixture of having a daughter not much younger than Millie and having read a number of books about grief in adopted children recently but the way Davis writes about and evokes feelings of grief, depression and loss, especially through Karl, is both touching and moving. There is also a warmth permeating though the story which means it is, ultimately, less a book about loss and more a novel about love and the power of love to heal.
Put you cynicism in a box and just read and enjoy with a sentimental smile and a warm heart.