What We Lostby Sara Zarr
When thirteen-year-old Jody goes missing, the national spotlight turns to Samara Taylor's small town of Pineview. With few clues for investigators to follow, everyone is a suspect, including Jody's older brother, Nick. But even as the town rallies in solidarity, Sam feels more alone than ever. Her mother is drifting/i>
Hope can be hard to hold on to.
When thirteen-year-old Jody goes missing, the national spotlight turns to Samara Taylor's small town of Pineview. With few clues for investigators to follow, everyone is a suspect, including Jody's older brother, Nick. But even as the town rallies in solidarity, Sam feels more alone than ever. Her mother is drifting farther and farther away while her father grows increasingly preoccupied as he steps in to help Jody's family in the wake of the disappearance. During the tense, uncomfortable days that follow, Sam draws closer to Nick as the local tragedy intersects with her personal one.
National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr delivers a powerful novel (originally published under the title Once Was Lost) about community, family, faith, and one girl's realization that sometimes you have to lose everything to find what's been missing all along.
* "A number of strong story strands...[and] sharply delineated characters....[add] to the story's depth."Booklist (starred review)
* "Riveting."Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
- Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
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- Age Range:
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What We Lost
By Sara Zarr
Little, Brown Books for Young ReadersCopyright © 2013 Sara Zarr
All rights reserved.
Saturday, early August.
The whole world is wilting.
Shriveling. Giving up. Dying.
Maybe not the whole world. Somewhere, I guess, it's not ninety-one degrees at four in the morning. I would like to be in that place. I would like to be somewhere, anywhere, that life feels possible and not smothered under a layer of heat and hopelessness. I'm tired of waking up every two hours in a puddle of sweat, and tired of every day discovering there's something else that's ruined or broken or falling apart. Yesterday it was the TV. Today, it's the ceiling fan in my room, the brokenness of which I discovered when I woke up wondering where the air went. I slipped out the sliding glass door into the backyard hoping for a miracle of something below eighty, and I now realize I can add the yard to the list of minor tragedies that make up my life these days.
The solar luminaries my dad put in last summer give just enough light that I can see the disaster it's become in this heat wave. Except I can't completely blame the heat. Honestly, it's looked like this for a long time. Dad's momentary burst of involvement via the luminaries and also painting the lawn furniture was just that—momentary. For about seventeen minutes last summer our family worked the way it's supposed to. The problems with the yard are just a symptom, really.
Everything out here reminds me of something. I can almost see the outline of my mom crouched at the base of the apple tree, mulching the roots, her blond hair held back with a blue bandanna; the curve of her neck, elegant. Even just a few months ago, when she was passing-out drunk, she still had that elegance. Classy is the word for my mother.
The clothesline strung up between a fence post and the metal eyebolt my dad screwed into the tree makes me think of the way he looked at her, laughing, when he said, "I can just imagine your undies flapping in the breeze on this thing, for all of Pineview to see. Your bra size will end up in the church newsletter if you're not careful."
"That would be funny if it weren't true," my mom said, but she smiled, too, and I know she liked it, Dad teasing her that way.
"Dad," I said, acting embarrassed. "Please." But I liked it, too.
That summer it wasn't too hot, and when the heat did climb there was iced tea on the back porch, my parents playing cribbage together after the sun went down, the game board balanced on my mom's tan thighs and my dad laying cards down on the arm of the chaise.
None of that lasted long. Probably all my good memories of the last year add up to three days.
I walk through the yard, making a mental checklist of what needs fixing. The two butterfly bushes have grown into each other and taken over the spot where my mom once had an herb garden, back when she still cared about things like cooking. The Mexican sage has completely run amok. The hollyhock plant that looked okay a few weeks ago has fallen over from its own weight, and lies across the flagstone path like a corpse. I step over to it, sweat trickling down the inside of my tank top and to the waistband of my pajama shorts. I try to get the hollyhock to stand up and stay up, but it flops back down over my bare feet.
I'm glad my mother isn't around to see this.
Instead, she's got the residents' garden of New Beginnings Recovery Center, neatly xeriscaped with drought-resistant plants that never ask for more than you can give them. Her room is neat. The cafeteria is neat. The visiting area is neat. She's been lifted, as if by the hand of God but in truth by the long arm of the law, out of this messy life.
I could make this yard look like the one at New Beginnings. All it would take are some supplies and time and maybe a book from the library telling me how to do it. Then, when she comes home, she won't have to see the same dead and dying things that were here when she left.
Ralph is hunkered down in the kitchen sink when I come in, cool porcelain all around him, and meows at me as if there's something I can do about the heat. I'd sit in the sink, too, if I fit. I lift him out and put him on the floor where he paces and meows and rubs his gray fur against my legs.
There's no cat food. There's barely any people food. I tear a few pieces off a leftover rotisserie chicken in the back of the fridge and toss them on the floor for Ralph, then pull an envelope from the stack of mail on the counter and start a grocery list on the back of it.
Soon I hear Dad up and moving around, and within a few minutes he appears under the archway to our open kitchen. I lift my head and he's rumpled and sweaty, his thick hair sticking up every which way, and staring at me like he's thinking of how to form the words that will make whatever it is not sound so bad.
"What," I say. It's not a question, because I know it's something. Every day it's something.
I wait for it, thinking of some of the information that has recently followed that statement.
Grandpa's surgery didn't go like we'd hoped.
We're not sure if we can pay the tuition at Amberton Heights Academy next year.
Your mother's been in an accident.
"The air conditioner is on the blink," Dad says.
He reaches down to scratch Ralph's head. "At least, I can't get it cranking. On the up side, the TV seems back in commission. I'm not sure how, but we're getting a picture again."
"My ceiling fan isn't working, either."
"No. And we need to buy groceries today." I hold up the envelope I've been writing on. "I'm making a list."
He comes close, smelling like someone who lives in a house where there is no air, and takes the envelope, turning it over to look at the front. It's a bill of some sort. "When did this come?" He rips into it.
"I don't know. The mail has been sitting here ..." For a while. "Don't mess up my list."
He pulls out the bill, looks at it for half a second, and stuffs it back into the envelope. "I guess I should go through all of this," he says, looking at the pile.
"Yeah." There are a lot of things around here I can take care of, a lot of things I have been taking care of for a long time, but being fifteen and unemployed, money isn't one of them.
Dad searches through a pile of paper on the other end of the counter. "Doesn't your mom keep coupons around here somewhere?"
"Mom hasn't clipped coupons in at least three years," I say. I know, because it was my job to sit at the counter with the Sunday paper while Dad was at church getting ready for the service. I'd scan the coupons and deals, while Mom had her weekly anxiety attack about what to wear, and what to make me wear. She hated Sundays. Eventually I realized she wasn't even using the coupons, and I figured I'd be of more use helping Mom get dressed and ready and calm. "You look perfect," I'd assure her. And she always did.
Dad, of course, was never here for any of that, so he has no idea. He stops rummaging through the papers and looks at me. "Well, what is all this, then?"
It's stuff from the last four months that she was scared to throw away: old phone messages, flyers for events she was afraid she'd forget about, bank deposit slips. She used to like a neat house, everything in order, so the fact that she let that stuff pile up should have told Dad something. Obviously, he'd barely noticed the kitchen counter until right this moment.
"It's Mom's," I say. "Just leave it." I don't want her coming home from rehab and feeling like we went through the house, erasing her. "Can we stop at the hardware store when we go out?" I ask. "I want to get some stuff for the yard."
"Maybe I can find the part for your ceiling fan and get that working." He stares at me in that meaningful, fatherly way I can't bear anymore so I have no choice but to turn away and pretend to look in the fridge. "What else do you have going on today?" he asks.
"Nothing." I move an almost-empty carton of milk two inches to the right and close the door. "Unless you want to start our driving lessons?"
He shakes his head. "I can't today. I think you should make a plan. I think you should call Vanessa, or Daniel. Get out of the house. Go see a movie in an air-conditioned theater."
"Sammy, it's not a suggestion. Okay?"
I nod. We've discussed this. Me being home alone too much, a habit I developed when I started to get afraid to leave Mom by herself. But she's not here now, so.
"I'm going to hop in the shower," he says.
I nod again, and watch him walk away, through the airless living room and down the hall.
Main Street in Pineview has exactly six not-so-creatively-named businesses:
Petey's Ice Cream
The Casa Nova Mexican Diner (only open three days a week)
Main Street Coffee
Main Street Gas & Garage
Main Street Bar & Grill (the "grill" part closed down years ago)
Main Street Hardware
We're two hours south of Medford, six hours north of Sacramento, and a day west of Denver, which puts us exactly ... nowhere. We have parades on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Christmas. The Ten Commandments are still inscribed on a monument outside City Hall even after three lawsuits. Once a year people from all over the West come here for the Migratory Bird Festival. There's one public school for all grades, one private school (where I go, or went, I guess), one post office that's really a trailer off the pass, one library, and one grocery store where the whole town shops except for those who drive thirty-eight miles to the new Dillon's Bluff Wal-Mart. And seven churches, including Pineview Community, where my dad is the pastor.
Everyone knows him. Everyone thinks they know us, me. Everyone is wrong.
Even as we drive through town now, people in other cars and kids playing near the road recognize us and wave. Probably a third of the town's population helps pay the lease on our Taurus and the mortgage on our house, which gives them the right to say things to my dad like, "I see you got new tires there, Charlie. Are you sure the steel-belted are really worth it? They can't be cheap ..." or "The front lawn at the house is looking a little ragged—do you need to borrow a mower?" Whenever I get new clothes I can almost see some of the women at church calculating how much we spent.
Everyone knows exactly how much my dad makes, and they think it's enough. Some think it's too much.
One time I was out with Mom when we ran into a congregant who owns his own tech company and gives a lot of money to the church. Mom was holding on to her cell phone, which she'd just upgraded to one of those that does everything so that I could have her old one, and this guy, this congregant, made a comment about it. "I guess you can keep your grocery list on that thing, if nothing else," he said. His big, jokey smile didn't hide what he was really saying: Why does a housewife need a fancy phone, especially when the church basically pays the cell bill, and shouldn't we use that money for new pew Bibles or an ad in the county yellow pages?
"Yes," Mom said, smiling back, drawing a perfectly but modestly home-manicured finger through a piece of hair that had fallen across her face. "It does wonders with grocery lists." But when the guy was gone, Mom said to me, "I guess we're not supposed to live in the twenty-first century," and tucked the phone into her purse, out of sight.
There's a lot of stuff like that we deal with. Those are just examples.
Now Dad pulls the car right in front of Main Street Hardware, and as he turns off the engine there's a little rattle coming from under the hood. I look at him. He's pretending not to hear it. After Mom's accident, and everything else, the last thing we need is car trouble.
The bells on the door of the hardware store jingle as we go in. A wave of air-conditioned air feels too cold at first, raising goose bumps on my arms, but then it's like heaven.
"Charlie, hey." Cal Stewart, who owns and single-handedly runs the hardware store, greets us. Or I should say he greets my dad and nods politely at me. "What can I do for you?" I like Cal, even though he never remembers my name. He's got woolly dark hair that's just starting to go a little gray, and wire-rim glasses that make him look smarter than most people in Pineview, and he's a lot nicer than the old couple he bought the store from a few years ago.
Dad and Cal discuss the ceiling fan issue, and I take advantage of the chance to walk the aisles of the store, running my hand over the different-size chains that hang from spools, looking into bins of glittering loose nails in every size, examining a dozen kinds of spackles and glues. There's something to make or fix or connect everything.
When he's done talking to my dad, Cal walks by the other end of the aisle and catches sight of me.
"Can I help you find something?"
"I'm thinking about doing something different in our backyard."
"Let's go to the outdoor section. Near the front."
My dad is up front, too, talking on his cell, something about the music for tomorrow's service.
Cal asks me, "So you want to do something different. Different how?"
"It's so hot," I say. "Everything's kind of ... dying."
He leads me to a spinning wire rack of thin gardening books, many of them dusty and with pages that are starting to yellow from the sun. "Here's one on desert gardening. Technically, Pineview is high desert and not true desert, but it's got a lot of info on plants that don't need much water."
"Right." He hands me the book. "Is this for 4-H?"
"No," I say, surprised that he remembers. "Just for my house."
The last time I came here was to get wooden dowels. I dropped out of 4-H before I finished that project, which was supposed to be me and Vanessa teaching crafts at the Dillon's Bluff Senior Center, but my mom wasn't doing so well the day she'd promised to drive us to do the setup, and my dad was busy with church, and instead of telling the truth I told Vanessa that I'd given my mom the wrong date and Vanessa got mad and I dropped out rather than let her down again. Anyway.
"You'll probably need some of this," Cal says, leading me through the store to a pile of black plastic sheeting.
"To smother those water-greedy plants you're trying to replace." He hands me a bulky, folded armload of it.
"Ready, Sam?" my dad asks, eyeing what I've got and, I'm sure, calculating the price.
I nod. Cal rings us up and Dad pays with a credit card. We both exhale and try not to look too surprised when it goes through.
In the grocery store, Dad doesn't approve of my list. "Your mother lets you eat like this?" He puts a bag of chocolate-covered pretzels back on the shelf.
I stare at him.
"Nothing." Just that you sound like a weekend dad who's been divorced for years, I think, not someone who allegedly lives in the same house as me.
He pushes the cart down the cereal aisle and throws in a box of cornflakes, the store brand that's always on sale and is not so much cornflakes as corn dust. To stop myself from complaining I turn on my heel and go off to the pet supplies, where I run right into Vanessa and her mom struggling with a twenty-pound bag of dog food.
"Sam!" Vanessa drops her end of the bag to the floor and hugs me.
It's only been a little over a week since I've seen her, but she looks like a whole different person to me. True, she's gotten her hair cut, and maybe she's a little bit more tan, but I mean she feels like a stranger—her voice, her soft arms around my neck, like it's been ten years, not ten days. I pull back, and wonder if she thinks I feel like a stranger, too.
"Didn't you get my messages?" she asks.
"I—" Whatever I say won't be true. How do you admit to avoiding your best friend?
Mrs. Hathaway, still grasping her corner of the dog food bag, saves me. "We wanted to invite you over for dinner sometime this week, if that would be okay with your dad."
She knows about my mom being gone, that's obvious, because normally she would have said, if that would be okay with your mom. Which makes me wonder how many other people from church know and when Dad is going to officially announce it so that I can stop playing the "I don't know if you know" game every time I run into church people, which is pretty much every time I leave the house.
Excerpted from What We Lost by Sara Zarr. Copyright © 2013 Sara Zarr. Excerpted by permission of Little, Brown Books for Young Readers.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Meet the Author
Sara Zarr was raised in San Francisco, California, and now lives with her husband in Salt Lake City, Utah. She is the author of How to Save a Life, What We Lost, Sweethearts, and the National Book Award finalist Story of a Girl. Her website is www.sarazarr.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
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Sam Taylor has been through a lot in the past month or so. For starters, her mom was sent to rehab for a drinking addiction and one of her friends from church dissapeared off the streets one day. Through all of Sams problems, she tries to stay as strong as possible. So far, the book has been very well written. Sara Zarr has done a terrific job of telling a story. The characters seem so real and you could easily place yourself in any of the settings. The problems that occur in the book are real-life issues and can be easily related to. I would highly recommend this book to any girl, teens and/or young adults.
I WAS REALLY INSPIRED!!! IT HELPED ME TO FIND MY FAITH!!!
Keeps you on the edge for a while then shows you how God really brings things back together. So glad i bought this book! :)
Once was Lost holds the exact measurements of everything that makes it accessible and good for many audiences. Sam is someone that many can relate to as they go through an emotional period in there life. I felt like her reactions to her life crumbling around her were realistic. Both the reader and Sam learn that her life isn't crumbling at the end, it is just changing. There is mystery where the kidnapping is concerned and emotion is expressed everywhere in the book. Sam must deal with her own problems with her alcoholic mother and busy father, as well as her communities where the kidnapping is concerned. There is literally a touch of romance in just the right place with just the right person. Sam and her entire journey are good for anyone. The religion aspect plays a big part in the novel, but it will not matter if you have any similarities with the religion part!
Poor Sam. She needed a hug throughout almost this entire book, and not the one-armed youth leader kind. She sufferes from knowing a lot of people but being close to very few. She's also dealing with the absence of her mother, and her mother's long-time alcohol abuse, all alone. Her dad doesn't want to talk about the situation, or at least he doesn't want to talk about it with Sam, and Sam can't talk to anyone else about it either, not even her best friend Vanessa, without hurting her father's reputation. They just keep telling people her mom is "sick" and not letting anyone in the house. Luckily for Pastor Charlie's image, no one wants to come over anyway since it's August and their air conditioner is broken. When Jody is kidnapped, Sam is clearly upset (she's mad at life, not heartless), but it does give her something besides her mother and crumbling family to focus all of her energy/super-power-strength-worrying-skills on. It's when the youth group is all gathered praying for Jody's safe return that Sam realizes that she doesn't know anymore if anyone's listening. How could a just and loving God let Jody be kidnapped? How could He let Sam flounder through her life feeling so abandoned and alone? Sam struggles through this by herself as well. A daughter who may have lost her faith could be more damaging to Pastor Charlie's reputation than a wife in rehab. But Sam's doubt isn't a rejection of God. She desperately wants to feel the closeness and comfort that her youth group friends feel, especially when she has such a lack of both in her day-to-day life. She just can't muster it, and so she feels isolated and wrong. Though Sam's situation would undoubtably be helped by talking to her church friends or youth leader, the fact that she doesn't feel she can go to them is ultimately realistic. Even if she had sought guidance, this is something so personal that she has to deal with it alone. And she does, with the search for Jody, a budding relationship with Nick, fights with Vanessa, and unreturned voicemails left for her mother all buzzing in the background. Though it is a heavy read, I highly recommend Once Was Lost, especially for regular youth group attendees. Book source: Philly Free Library
When her mother is checked into rehab, Samara wants her father to say the right words like he does to everyone else in their small town. His charm is undeniable and the Pineview Community Church is lucky to have him as a pastor. But Sam isn't so sure that her dad has it altogether. Then again, what does she really know about him if he's never home? Heat waves suck. And they make everything feel ten times worse. So Sam's thoughts are all the more depressing. A 13-year-old girl from their congregation goes missing and Sam finds herself falling in love with the girl's grieving older brother. But paranoia doesn't leave without a question: Is there really a God? Once Was Lost was predictable. The writing was pretty and flowed well but I was never fully into the story. It was too easy to set the book down. There seemed to be two sides of the main character: one was self-conscience and vulnerable and the other just wanted to scream of frustration. So I could never sympathize with Sam. The book also needed a bigger variety in character personalities. Everyone's dialogue was basically the same things being said over and over. I really liked the ending even though I knew what was coming. Both the cover and the story are minty fresh but they're forgettable.
Sara Zarr's novels are always filled with greatness. Story of A Girl was an amazing and fascinating read while Sweethearts was a heartbreaking story that made me cry. So, when I found out she had a new novel coming out soon, I was supper excited. Luckily, Once Was Lost may seriously be Sara's best attempt yet! Once Was Lost is novel that deals with loosing hope because of different tragedies that are occurring around you while still trying to restore that hope. One thing, I enjoyed about this novel was the way Sara Zarr approached religion. Since, it was well done and wasn't overbearing which I admired about this book. Also, I loved the whole mystery aspect of this novel which is brought out from the kidnapping. It was interesting to see the twists and turns that come from this and the final revelation of who did it. Sadly, at times, Once Was Lost moved in a way that was a bit slow, especially at the beginning. Though, the characters tended to over shadow this bad point, because I really enjoyed reading about them all, especially Sam. She is a character that is easy to relate to and like. Overall, Once Was Lost is a beautiful tale about forgiving and starting to believe again, I look forward to reading more books by Zarr! Grade: A
I felt that this book was very slow and boring, but i loved the lessons that the author brings in the story.
What We Lost is an amazing book!!!!!!!
One of those where everybody seems guilty. Unexpected ending.
Kinda slow but heartwarming
This book was amazingly amazing!!! <3 It grabbed my heart when Jody went missing and kept pulling at my emotions with Sam's family problems and Nick's situation where half of the country thinks it's him! I never thought it was him for a second! And at the part where Sam jumps out of the car and Nick just protects her and kisses her sooo gently! That's one of my favorite parts, and I kept re-reading it! How he didn't mean to hurt her, and she truly believes him when he told her he didn't do it. I was crying a little! This is the first book I've read by Sara Zarr, and I just started another and it's pretty good for the beginning of a book! I highly recommend this book to everyone who wants a book that'll definately test your emotions.
I LOVE THIS BOOK. IT IS AMAZING!!!!!
Sam thinks entering high school will turn her life around, well she is completely wrong. She is the only child of a pastor, which makes everyone automatically think she must be perfect. Her family barely has any money so the church pays most of their bills. When she thinks nothing worse could happen her mother got a DUI, meaning she must attend rehab. Sam and her mom were very close which made her going to rehab even harder. Her dad didn't understand her like her mom did, he seemed to have the answers to everyones questions and problems but hers. One day after church while watching the news she discovers one of her friends, Jody Shaw, from church got kidnapped. At this point she basically loses faith and is unsure on who to turn to.
Another hit for Sara Zarr. I love her style of writing. I hope she has something else coming out soon.
Im not christian but i liked that religion was woven in this one
It really is awesome. It describes how one event can change your life. Its got tragedy, romance, bonding, and hope all rolled into one. It describes a teens journey to define herself and her faith. The ending might be a little predictable for some, but it definitely makes my top ten.