The Lost Child will appeal to readers of David Sheff's Beautiful Boy, still the standard-bearerbut 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
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.)
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.
“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