The Lost Child: A Mother's Story

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"While researching her next book, Julie Myerson finds herself in a graveyard, looking for traces of a young woman who died nearly two centuries before. As a child in Regency England, the young woman, Mary Yelloly, painted an exquisite album of water-colors that uniquely reflected the world in which she lived. But Mary died at the age of twenty-one, and when Julie came across this album, she was haunted by the potential never realized. She was also reminded of her own child." "Only days before the graveyard visit, Julie and her husband had locked

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The Lost Child: A Mother's Story

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Overview

"While researching her next book, Julie Myerson finds herself in a graveyard, looking for traces of a young woman who died nearly two centuries before. As a child in Regency England, the young woman, Mary Yelloly, painted an exquisite album of water-colors that uniquely reflected the world in which she lived. But Mary died at the age of twenty-one, and when Julie came across this album, she was haunted by the potential never realized. She was also reminded of her own child." "Only days before the graveyard visit, Julie and her husband had locked their eldest son out of the family home. He was just seventeen. Their formerly bright and happy child had discovered drugs, and it had taken only a matter of months for the boy to completely lose his way and propel the family into daily chaos. Julie - whose fragile relationship with her own father had left her determined to love her children better - had to accept that she was powerless to bring her son back." Honest, warm, and profoundly moving, this is the story of two young lives - one cut short, one derailed. They are separated by centuries, but the questions remain terrifyingly the same. What happens when a child disappears from a family? What will survive of any of us, in memory or in history? And how is a mother to cope when love is not enough?

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Editorial Reviews

Dominique Browning
The Lost Child will appeal to readers of David Sheff's Beautiful Boy, still the standard-bearer—but that's not enough. These are books for all parents, no matter what shape they think their children are in. Indeed, these books are for anyone interested in public policy relating to drugs. Why would we choose not to see what's happening all around us? Books like these signal the beginning of awareness. And the beginning of hope that we can do right by our children.
—The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
In this difficult, unsettling memoir, English novelist (Sleepwalking) Myerson attempts a tricky bifurcated journey between two lives, past and present. Clearly, the author began with the intent of tracing the obscure life and work of a 19th-century artist, Mary Yelloly, who had once lived in Myerson's town of Suffolk and died of tuberculosis at age 21, in 1838. The author was given some of Yelloly's watercolors and proceeded to research the extended family as well as uncover where Mary was buried in the nearby Woodton churchyard. However, another life crisis pressed to the forefront: that of her oldest son, who at 17 began to exhibit bizarrely aggressive behavior from smoking “cannabis,” driving his parents to despair and the painful decision to kick him out of their home. Myerson's memoir, while erecting the elaborate and frequently tedious genealogy of the Yelloly and Suckling clans, on the one hand, is utterly overrun and undermined by the stunning cruelty of the very real teenager (e.g., selling drugs to his little brother, ignoring the pregnancy of his girlfriend, punching his mother), on the other. The whole effect of Victorian portraits and letters, details of the cringing servility with which Myerson and her husband deal with their son and memories of the author's own teenage rupture with her father makes for a surreally touching textual kaleidoscope. (Sept.)
Kirkus Reviews
While investigating the life of a Regency-era child artist, British novelist Myerson (Out of Breath, 2008, etc.) endures her own son's drug addiction. Mary Yelloly died in 1838, leaving behind a marvelous watercolor picture-book composed years earlier detailing the lives of an imaginary family closely based on her own. Who was she, and how did the premature death and loss of this unrealized talent alter the lives of the large, very real family she left behind? Myerson's search for this "lost child" yields some answers, none terribly engrossing, but it quickly becomes clear that the Yelloly story is subordinate to that of another lost child, her own 17-year-old, who was addicted to skunk, a potent strain of cannabis more dangerous in some ways than heroin. The product of an emotionally abusive alcoholic father, Myerson resolved early on that for her own children, "There will never be any terrible, stupid rules. I will love them. I will just love them." The inadequacy of this childrearing strategy-too late, she understands that love is not the solution, but rather "the most irresistible part of the problem"-became apparent as her son virtually abandoned school, vilely abused his parents, stole from them, trashed their home and gave his siblings drugs. Even after summoning the will, finally, to evict the boy from her home, the parents ended up paying for his casual girlfriend's abortion and following his trail of stiffed landlords. As the inquiry into Yelloly closes with the discovery of her grave beneath a church carpet, Myerson's relationship with her son, himself a would-be poet, remains strained, his drug dependency unresolved. Though her heart breaks, she resolves to maintain hertough-love stance toward a beloved child, about whom she writes with motherly tenderness. An odd, not always successful conflation of two stories-two artistic young people from separate centuries, one gone too soon, the other, for now, missing in action.
From the Publisher

The Lost Child is a cry for help and a plea for a clear acknowledgment of the toll this drug is taking on our children. [It] will appeal to readers of David Sheff’s Beautiful Boy but that’s not enough. These are books for all parents, no matter what shape they think their children are in. Indeed, these books are for anyone interested in public policy relating to drugs. Why would we choose not to see what’s happening all around us?  Books like these signal the beginning of awareness. And the beginning of hope that we can do right by our children.”—New York Times Book Review

“A surreally touching textual kaleidoscope.”—Publishers Weekly

 

“Julie Myerson has written a fascinating, searching book about the messy limits of love that manages to be both historical and achingly contemporary.”—Michael Greenberg, author of Hurry Down Sunshine

 

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781596917002
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 9/1/2009
  • Pages: 336
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.62 (h) x 1.11 (d)

Meet the Author

Julie Myerson is the author of seven novels, including Something Might Happen, and two works of nonfiction, including Home. She lives in London and Suffolk with her husband and teenage children.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 3.5
( 7 )
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Sort by: Showing all of 7 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2009

    Courageous and heartbreaking

    I have read in the overseas press that Ms. Myerson is being villified for writing about her son and his addiction. I think she is a hero for her courageous parenting and for writing this tragic book. More people need to wake up and see what drugs are doing to our teens. Even pot, which, until I real the book, I had no idea could cause permanent frontal lobe brain damage in teens. She writes with such emotion and clarity, I can feel her pain searing through each page, and it makes me think of my own 17 year old. If one half of what she said was truth, her son was a danger to not only himself, but her husband, herself and her other two children. WHAT is a parent to do, when a child threatens to stab them in the heart with a knife, tells them to F off on a regular basis, steals, destroys property on purpose, and actually sent her to an emergency room with a damaged eardrum after he hit her? I love my son with my whole heart, but I would have done the exact same things that she did, probably sooner than she did, and I would have wept just as often after kicking him out. Unless you walk in this families shoes, you can't know the pain of having a child under the influence of drugs. It tears at every thread of your family, your finances and your sanity. God Bless you, Julie and thank you from the bottom of my heart for your courage. Your book gave me the courage to continue my own battle with my 17 year old. You see, good parents can have bad kids....and anyone who thinks otherwise is just a roll of the dice away from the hell that Julie and her family have and are continuing to have to live with.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 31, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    A deeply moving, heart-felt, thoughtful and superbly written non-fiction book.

    Novelist Julie Myerson's new book, "The Lost Child: A Mother's Story", is a deeply moving, heart-felt, thoughtful, and superbly written non-fiction book. The author has woven two independent strands, or merged two disparate stories into one, to produce this sparkling and spell-binding narrative. In the UK, where it was published in March of this year, the book has become highly controversial too.

    The first story is about a remarkable artist named Mary Yelloly, who died of consumption in 1838, at the age of 21, leaving a collection of some 200 watercolor paintings depicting family life in Regency England in early 19th century. The author saw a fat, leather-bound album with the name Mary Yelloly stamped on the front - a collection of paintings which the artist had started when she was only eight years old, and ended by age 12. The author was intrigued and so impressed with the paintings that she decided to gather information about the artist and her family. During this time her eldest son, aged 17, starts smoking a potent variety of cannabis known as Skunk.

    When Ms. Myerson's son gets addicted to smoking cannabis, his descent to hell and the devastation his addiction inflicted on her family forms the second, and much more gripping, strand of this astonishing book. Written in prose so elegant, pristine, lyrical and mesmerizing that I was overcome with awe several times; this book is truly astounding: "He just shrugged. But then his father leaned across to touch his arm and make a little joke, and our boy looked at the ground and smiled his old heartbreaking smile, the one he's had since he was two years old."

    The author states that she showed the manuscript to her son, and he gave her permission to publish it. The controversy arose because her son was not of legal age of consent at the time, and she had him evicted from her home even though he was only 17 years old. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this book, even though I found it heart-breaking also.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 10, 2013

    more from this reviewer

    Reefer madness!! Shame on Julie Myerson for her lies and propoga

    Reefer madness!! Shame on Julie Myerson for her lies and propoganda. I pity her poor son who was put thru hell by a parent who is ignorant of the facts of marajuana obviously had her own aganda. Do you work for a liquor company b'c the only enemy here is a legal substance called alcohol!
    This book is garbage in a neat package and boring to boot!!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 9, 2012

    Ik im mean but not at all like that an im a girl

    Some ppl wud say i have anger issues but i dont u piss me off ill g at u. Well me an my mom get into it a lot an i prety much always cuss her under my breath. Now think bout it im a girl an i shudnt b doing that right. Well im not as bad as this kid i mean for crying out loud he sent his mom to the emergenci room i wud never think of hitting my mom ik she wud hit back anyone have any advice i want a bttr relationship with my mom an i prety sure it not gona hppn if we r always fighting the way me an her always do

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 13, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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    Posted October 5, 2011

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 19, 2011

    No text was provided for this review.

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