Department of Lost & Found
  • Department of Lost & Found
  • Department of Lost & Found

Department of Lost & Found

4.2 9
by Allison Winn Scotch

In this hopeful, humorous, and astonishingly deft debut, Allison Winn Scotch explores what happens when a young woman thinks she's lost everything that matters—and ends up discovering what's truly important. This is a novel that will leave you taking stock of what's important in your own life . . . and never letting it go.

It didn't start out as the worst

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In this hopeful, humorous, and astonishingly deft debut, Allison Winn Scotch explores what happens when a young woman thinks she's lost everything that matters—and ends up discovering what's truly important. This is a novel that will leave you taking stock of what's important in your own life . . . and never letting it go.

It didn't start out as the worst day of Natalie Miller's life. At thirty, she is moving up the political ladder, driven by raw ambition and ruthless determination. As the top aide to New York's powerful female senator, she works hard, stays late, and enjoys every bit of it, even if the bills she's pushing through do little to improve the lives of the senator's constituents. And if her boyfriend isn't the sexiest guy alive, at least he's a warm body to come home to.

Then he announces he's leaving. But that news is barely a blip compared to what Natalie's doctor tells her: She has breast cancer. And she can't cure it by merely being headstrong. Now the life Natalie must change is her own.

All her energy, what little of it she has left, must go into saving herself from a merciless disease. So when she's not lying on the sofa recovering from her treatments and indulging in a curious addiction to The Price Is Right, she realizes it's time to take a hard look at her choices. She begins by tracking down the five loves-of-her-life to assess what went wrong. Along the way, she questions her relationships with her friends, her parents, her colleagues, the one who got away, and, most important, with herself: Why is she so busy moving through life that she never stops to embrace it?

As Natalie sleuths out the answers to these questions, her journey of self-discovery takes her down new paths and to unexplored places. And she learns that sometimes when life is at its most unexpected, it's not what you lose that makes you who you are . . . it's what you find.

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Editorial Reviews

Claire Cook
“Allison Winn Scotch’s thoroughly engaging and optimistic debut novel simply sparkles!”
Valerie Frankel
“With a heroine who dares to be cranky and bitchy abour her disease while still attempting to keep her ‘brave’ game face on. The story is real, honest, engrossing, and funny, too. Plus any book with a Bob Barker cameo is aces with me.”
Theta Magazine
Told with humor and hope for a happier ending, this heartwarming debut will encourage readers to take stock.
No Source
Told with humor and hope for a happier ending, this heartwarming debut will encourage readers to take stock.
“The changes and realizations that the characters make are profound and moving....An impressive debut.”
Theta magazine
Told with humor and hope for a happier ending, this heartwarming debut will encourage readers to take stock.
Philadelphia Inquirer
“A light, fast and fun read on a serious topic.”
Marie Claire
Where you should read it: On the beach. It’s smart and well-written, but still divertingly light.
Redbook Magazine
Editor’s Choice: When [Natalie Miller’s] carefully crafted life begins to crumble...she finds inspiration from unexpected people.
Publishers Weekly

Some side-effects of cancer treatment are pretty fabulous in magazine writer Scotch's debut novel. Natalie Miller, a driven 30-year-old senior aideto a woman senator from New York, is having a rough time: just days after she's diagnosed with breast cancer, her cheating live-in boyfriend ditches her. She's feeling gloomy, then, when she begins chemo. (Her hunky and sweet gynecologist, Zach, is a mitigating factor.) Though the election is six weeks away, Natalie is ordered to stay home, where she writes in her diary (excerpts appear throughout) and becomes addicted to The Price Is Rightwhile an ambitious junior aide takes over her job. Natalie battles through rounds of chemo and a mastectomy until, out of the blue, an old love, up-and-coming rocker Jake, comes back to take care of her. He seems intent on making things work, but Natalie's long-simmering (and seemingly requited) attraction to Zach only intensifies. Meanwhile, Natalie's journalist friend Sally lands her first big story: an exposé of Natalie's boss. Her loyalties on the line and her cancer on the wane, Natalie makes some tough choices about the postcancer person she wants to be. Character development is secondary to the affirmative message in this bonbon of a cancer book. (May)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Kirkus Reviews
A predictable debut about a 30-year-old go-getter whose life is put on hold when she's diagnosed with breast cancer. Natalie Miller is senior aide to a Hillary Clinton-like New York senator-the job is tough, demanding and a bit underhanded. And so is Natalie. But the identity she's carefully cultivated is no match for the big "C," especially when the two things she depends on-the power of her job and her unchallenging boyfriend-disappear after her diagnosis. Although Natalie will admit she and Ned were hardly inseparable, no one wants to be dumped, especially at such a tumultuous time. And though Natalie would like to tough it out, Senator Dupris insists she take some time off during chemotherapy (of course, in her absence, Natalie loses her swank private office). Adrift without her professional position, Natalie decides to uncover why her past romances have failed. Disappointingly, the sections devoted to tracking old boyfriends are in diary form. The feedback from the beaus is the same: Natalie has always had priorities other than romance. Now afraid of dying, and that her chance for love may be over, she longs for both the one who got away (burgeoning rock-star Jake) and the one who may be Mr. Right, her second-best friend's ex, Zach. In the midst of the expected boyfriend trouble and work trouble (she is being usurped by an underling) is Natalie's battle with cancer, her chemotherapy, the loss of her hair and then both her breasts, the reaction of her friends and finally Natalie's own growing ability to ask for help. The writing is chatty, often funny, but the obviousness of the plot-by the end, Natalie may have found true love-detracts from any poignancy derived from Natalie's battlewith illness. Amiable gal stuff, aiming for, but not quite reaching, a higher plateau.

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Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date:
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.05(d)

Read an Excerpt

The Department of Lost & Found
A Novel

Chapter One

Dear Diary,

And so I begin. Janice, my cancer therapist, suggested that it might be healthy for me to channel my feelings onto paper instead of channeling them inward and sitting around feeling sorry for myself, which I've spent a great deal of time doing in the past few weeks. So I'm going to give this diary thing a shot. Though, really, who can blame me for moping? I was diagnosed with wretched cancer, my boyfriend dumped me, and the office won't return my calls.

Of course, when Janice suggested this little hobby, I told her I had nothing to write about: My cancer was certainly out—spending hours in a darkened bedroom with a pen in hand mulling over my mortality wasn't an option. But then, I was lying on my couch staring at the ceiling, hearing the radio but not really listening, when I heard Jake's voice come over the airwaves. Jake. He of my all-consuming love. He was singing about lost love, and I sunk into the pillows and pulled the chenille throw blanket over my legs and wondered if he were singing about me. When the DJ spun a new song, I sat up with a start. Inspiration.

You see, Diary, in the weeks since Ned up and dumped me, it has occurred to me that I'm not entirely sure what went wrong between us. And when I further pondered this situation, I realized that I wasn't sure what went wrong in just about all of my prior relationships. And when I pondered this one step more, I realized that I must lack any or all bits of self-awareness. I mean, what sort of person walks away from a relationship and doesn't even devote a moment to the root of itsending? Sure, I spent time mulling over the ending itself—the overdramatic epitaphs, the wasted tears—but not necessarily the why behind it.

So with that, Diary, I'm off to retrace the steps and missteps of my past: Yes, I'm going to track down the five loves of my life and see what I might glean, who I'll be, where I'll end up. Who knows where it will lead? But you'll be along for the ride, Diary. Wish me luck.

The election was in six weeks and counting, and admittedly, being out of the action was beginning to take its toll. Ever since law school, I'd only known one thing: work. Higher, stronger, more. Which is how I'd ascended to my pivotal position as the great Senator Dupris's senior aide. All by the age of thirty, which I turned in early September, just before the world as I know it otherwise imploded.

Before said implosion of my world, I was a woman about town. I'd be parked at my desk by 7:30 A.M., already having run four miles, chatted up the Starbucks barista, and scanned the morning headlines. The next twelve hours would be a blur: The day would be spent cajoling aides, seducing lobbyists, caressing the media, or demolishing anyone who stood in the senator's way. If I were lucky, in the evenings Ned and I would split Chinese takeout around nineish, and after checking my e-mail one last time, I'd crash on my four-hundred-thread-count sheets, only to start it up all over again the next morning.

Now? Well, here's an example of what I did today.

8:27 I wake up.

8:28 I consider vomiting, so roll back over onto Ned's side of the bed and pull my sleep mask back down.

8:31 I can't ward off the effects of Friday's chemo treatment any longer, despite my heavy use of the antinausea drugs that Dr. Chin, my oncologist, prescribed, so I rush to the bathroom just off my bedroom and lean over the toilet while my body rebels against the very medicine that's trying to save it.

8:35 I brush my teeth, wipe the sweat off my brow, and climb back into bed, swearing that I've never hated anything more in my life than this cancer, which, if you were privy to several of my professional entanglements, says a lot about my distaste for my current condition.

9:26 The phone rouses me from bed, and I assure Dr. Dorney—well, Zach, I should really call him (or Dr. Horny, as my friend Lila, the one who ended up dating him for a year and a half before unceremoniously dumping him on the grounds that she couldn't stand dating a man who looked at vaginas for a living, liked to call him)—that I'm fine and don't need anything, and please to not stop by. I sit up in bed and catch my reflection in the closet mirror on the opposite wall: my matted hair, my three-day-old pajamas, my sallow skin. No, I tell him firmly, you should most definitely not drop by.

10:06 My eyes (and brain, perhaps) glaze over as I become entranced with Bob Barker and his lovely bevy of beauties.

10:11 The antinausea tea that I've quickly grown to rely on winds its way through my system, so I nibble on a banana. It's only been three weeks (or one chemo cycle), and I've already lost five pounds.

10:54 Despite feeling rather bulletproof with my Price Is Right expertise, I lose the vacation to the Bahamas and the Ford Thunderbird in the showcase showdown. Now what do I have to live for?

11:02 Time to e-mail Kyle at work.

From: Miller, Natalie
To: Richardson, Kyle
Re: What's Up with Taylor?


Saw the paper this AM. What's up with the leaks about Dupris's tax returns? You know that Councilman Taylor will do anything to win this election and put her out of the job. He's a slimy bastard—and a state councilman at that! Where does he get off? What are you guys doing for damage control?


11:54 I check e-mail.

12:03 I check e-mail.

12:11 I check e-mail.

12:34 I realize that my BlackBerry will alert me to my e-mail, so decide to take a walk.

The Department of Lost & Found
A Novel
. Copyright © by Allison Scotch. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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What People are saying about this

Valerie Frankel
“With a heroine who dares to be cranky and bitchy abour her disease while still attempting to keep her ‘brave’ game face on. The story is real, honest, engrossing, and funny, too. Plus any book with a Bob Barker cameo is aces with me.”
Claire Cook
“Allison Winn Scotch’s thoroughly engaging and optimistic debut novel simply sparkles!”

Meet the Author

Allison Winn Scotch is the author of the New York Times bestseller Time of My Life and The One That I Want. She lives in New York with her family.

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Department of Lost & Found 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 7 reviews.
PaulineMA More than 1 year ago
This book was a great find...I've read another book by Allison so when I saw this I knew I had to read it. I was not disappointed. The story is well written and the characters have depth. There is a reality that most of us have read about chemo from an objective point of view but this one is from the woman's perspective and she does a great job with it. There are excerpts from the woman's diary. As a nurse, I have to say that I usually am critical about the medical details. Not an issue here. There's not a lot of complex terminology but everything is explained clearly. I have to find more books by Allison Winn Scotch!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
Allison Winn Scotch's debut novel is an exploration of the human spirit in the form of Natalie, a 30-year-old up and coming Senate aide who is simultaneously diagnosed with breast cancer and dumped by her live-in boyfriend. During the time she's got on her hands as she undergoes chemo, Natalie reviews her life and her choices. She comes to realize that she's sacrificed too much in her climb up the political ladder and that to receive love, you must be willing to give it and to get hurt. I can't wait to read Allison's next book and I highly recommend this one.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I'm an avid reader but have been disappointed lately by some of the contemporary fiction on the market. Not so with Allison Winn Scotch's debut novel. I couldn't put this book down and was sorry to see it end. We've all heard the phrase 'Don't get so busy making a living that you forget to have a life.' This could be the mantra of Natalie Miller. At 30, she seems to have it all until her world comes crashing down with a diagnosis of cancer which coincides with her boyfriend leaving her. Rather than sink into depression, Natalie directs her energies towards figuring out what went wrong in her past relationships by tracking down the five loves of her life. Given that Natalie is battling breast cancer, this could have been a deep, dark, novel yet Scotch portrays Natalie as a fighter and illustrates how she battles cancer with courage and humor. When Natalie faces her own immortality, she comes to the realization that she's been sleepwalking through much of her life. Her diagnosis brings an understanding of what she truly wants from life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Written with bittersweet insight and -- at times -- heartfelt irreverence, this debut novel takes on the big C. And though her heroine does battle cancer, Allison Winn Scotch's tale actually focuses on the big C of challenges inherent to us all. Be prepared to have your eyes opened and your heart touched by a gifted, new author who understands the power of hope.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Magazine writer Allison Winn Scotch debuts her talented fiction writing skills with a novel that will have you laughing 'or at least smiling' one minute and balling your eyes out the next. Her story about a young woman's bout with breast cancer is both couragous and charming. Allison tells the story beginning with the main character, Natalie's, diagnosis. She weaves diary entries in with the narrative and creates a believeable tale. And it's no wonder. She wrote the book to tell a story with a happier ending than that of the best friend whom she lost to cancer in real life. The author tells Natalie's story from an interesting perspective, taking the reader on Natalie's path down memory lane to find out what went wrong in her relationships with her former boyfriends. Along the way, in between rounds of chemo, hair loss, and girlfriend trouble, Natalie realizes that during times of turmoil what we lose may not be nearly as important as what we gain because of the process. The Department of Lost & Found is a fine example of fiction written real. If you read it, you're sure to gain a new kind of empathy in a thankfully painless way.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Thirty years old senior aid to Senator Dupris of NY, Natalie Miller learns she has breast cancer. Not long after the horrifying diagnosis, her unassuming boyfriend Ned dumps her when she most needs him to comfort her. Worse the workaholic has to take a leave of absence from her high powered job six weeks before the election as the chemotherapy she begins requires plenty of rest with no stress. In her diary she begins to keep she writes mostly gloom and doom entries as only the Price is Right cheers her up although she admits to herself under other circumstances she would not mind seeing her kindhearted gynecologist Zach when Nat deeply muses re Zach she knows she would never have met him under any other circumstance. As she struggles with chemotherapy and ultimately a mastectomy, a former lover rock musician Jake returns into her life to help her, but she wants Zach though she fears he will see that as gratitude even if she believes he desires her too. As Nat heals, Sally her friend and a reporter uncovers a monster scandal that will hurt Dupris just when Natalie must decide whether to return to her and politics. ---- This fascinating character study contains one full blooded protagonist and a bunch of cardboard cutouts whose existence only relates to the lead character. When the insightful story line focuses on Natalie¿s bout with cancer the plot cuts deep into her heart and soul so that the audience understands her fears of dying young and her feelings that she accomplished nothing so far in her life (reminiscent of Margaret Edson¿s classic WIT). When she looks back (impassive diary form) to the loves of her life, she realizes the common theme of why they always ended was due to her ambition superseding her love. Fans of powerful poignant drama (except for the ¿required¿ ending) will enjoy this often humorous discerning look at a cancer survivor. ---- Harriet Klausner