Once Was Lost

Once Was Lost

4.3 49
by Sara Zarr
     
 

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Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things. As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reason 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

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Overview

Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things. As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reason 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 is kidnapped, 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, about your family, about yourself—-is transformed.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Faith takes a front seat in National Book Award–finalist Zarr's (Story of a Girl) hard-hitting third novel. When 13-year-old Jody Shaw is kidnapped in broad daylight, her abduction rocks the once secure town of Pineview and her church community (“A thing like this changes the way you think about everything and everyone, and you can never go back”). Her disappearance provides an eerie backdrop to protagonist Samara Taylor's personal drama: her mother's alcoholism, which prompted a four-week stint in rehab, and her father's refusal to focus on anything (his marital problems, the inappropriateness of his relationship with a 26-year-old church member, his parental responsibilities) other than his role as pastor to a flock in need. Sam's questions regarding God's existence (“Do you just decide that you do believe, no matter what, and then force your mind shut when doubts try to come in?”) and her place in the world feel all-encompassing, aptly mirroring the mood of her close-knit community as they trawl for answers in Jody's case. Beyond delivering a gripping story, Zarr has a knack for exposing human weakness in the ordinary. Ages 12–up. (Oct.)
Children's Literature - Michele C. Hughes
Despite being a pastor's daughter, Sam's faith ebbs as she faces her mother's alcoholism and her father's emotional withdrawal. With her mother in rehab and her father more distant than ever, Sam has lost even the little bit of comfort she derived from her imperfect family situation, and, when Jody, a girl from the church youth group, disappears, Sam's faith seems irreparably damaged. Sam appeals to her mother for support, but her lack of response from the rehab facility makes Sam wonder if her mom will ever reconnect with the family. In the midst of this crisis, Sam's father spends more time with a female youth group leader, while Sam deepens her relationship with Jody's attractive older brother, Nick. Their anguish over Jody's disappearance bonds them in a way that a tragedy can, and the interactions between a pastor's daughter and an older boy from the youth group are well-written with a believable awkwardness. This story avoids preachy, sugar-coated perspectives on life, grappling with real questions about suffering, prayer, and faith. Readers sympathize with Sam's authentic emotions during this spiritually trying season in her life. The end of the novel is true to the story: it is not perfectly tidy, but the reader recognizes a tiny seed of faith in Sam and the hope of growth and restoration. Reviewer: Michele C. Hughes
VOYA - Amy Wyckoff
Samara Taylor knows that everyone expects her life to be picture perfect—she is the pastor's daughter, after all. At fifteen years old, however, Sam feels like her world is wilting all around her. During one particularly scorching August, Sam's mother gets a DUI and enters rehab, leaving Sam alone with her father who seems to have the right words to comfort everyone but her. Then the sudden disappearance of a thirteen-year-old member of Sam's church youth group seems unreal. As the search for Jody extends from hours into days, Sam questions not only her belief in God but also her faith in her father, her mother, and the people she thought she could trust in her community. Sam is not expecting a miracle, but she certainly would welcome one. Zarr's fans will not be disappointed by this beautifully crafted novel about a teen coping with a loss of faith. Jody was lost, but no matter the outcome of the search, readers will perceive that Sam's life has changed forever. Readers will be drawn into this realistic story, hoping that Jody will return safely, Sam's mother will recover, and Sam and her father will find a way to reconnect. Heartbreaking at times, this novel is also full of hope because Sam learns to accept the world around her even though she realizes it is never going to be perfect. Reviewer: Amy Wyckoff
School Library Journal
Gr 7–10—For 15-year-old Sam, a pastor's daughter, believing in God was natural until, somehow, a few years back doubt crept in. If God is all good and all powerful, why isn't He fixing anything? Sam's mother's alcoholism resulted in a DUI and landed her in rehab; her father is gone all the time dealing with other people's problems, and he doesn't seem to know how to communicate with his wife and daughter even when he is home. Things ratchet up even further when a local girl is abducted from their sleepy Northern California town, a crisis that drives much of the plot. Then, unexpectedly, Sam experiences a moment when she truly connects with God. Bit by bit, the areas of brokenness begin to move toward healing, although perfection is still a long way off. Sam is a complex and fully formed character whose insight into her own behavior fluctuates in a wholly believable teenage way. Her shy exterior is offset by a sardonic voice, reflecting, for example, on the fact that her alcoholic mother is a better parent than her pastor father. In the background is a beautifully developed metaphor for Sam's life as she tries to find ways to take charge of her backyard, where even drought-resistant plants have succumbed to a massive heat wave. This multilayered exploration of the intersection of the spiritual life and imperfect people features suspense and packs an emotional wallop.—Faith Brautigam, Gail Borden Public Library, Elgin, IL
Kirkus Reviews
The abduction of 13-year-old Jody Shaw has absolutely devastated the small, close-knit community of Pineview, Calif. Though the Shaw tragedy has affected everyone, readers see it through the eyes of 15-year-old Samara Taylor, whose father is the Shaws' pastor and spokesperson. Even before Jody goes missing, Sam is floundering-her mother has spent the last few weeks at a facility being treated for alcoholism, and her father is having trouble coping. When Jody disappears, Sam's faith in God and in both of her parents is further challenged. Her new friendship with Nick Shaw, Jody's older brother and a potential suspect in Jody's disappearance, could either lead to her salvation or destruction. Which will it be? And what becomes of Jody? Bold-faced newscasts periodically interrupt the narrative, providing updates on the Shaw case and maintaining a sustained sense of urgency. This rare combination of in-depth character study and gripping mystery relies on a strong sense of emotional truth to do justice to some tough subject matter without graphic or violent scenes. Riveting. (Mystery. YA)
Booklist
Praise for Once Was Lost
"Zarr sets a hard task for herself here: interweaving a number of strong story strands and giving them equal weight...add to the story's depth." (starred review)
From the Publisher
Praise for Once Was Lost
"Zarr sets a hard task for herself here: interweaving a number of strong story strands and giving them equal weight...add to the story's depth." (starred review)—Booklist

Praise for Once Was Lost
"Beyond delivering a gripping story, Zarr has a knack for exposing human weakness in the ordinary." (starred review)—Publishers Weekly

Praise for Once Was Lost
"Riveting." (starred review)—Kirkus Reviews

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780316036047
Publisher:
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Publication date:
10/01/2009
Pages:
224
Product dimensions:
5.60(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)
Lexile:
HL780L (what's this?)
Age Range:
12 - 17 Years

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