Jun 21, 2012

Once Was Lost

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
Published: October 1, 2009 by Little Brown

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.

This is a very interesting take on religion and teenagers, but don't be scared off by the religion and faith aspect of the book! This is not a book that will beat you over the head with a certain idea at all, and is really more focused on Samara's life as a pastor's daughter, as well as her doubts about what she has known her entire life. 

  • concept - I really like Zarr's idea of portraying a pastor's daughter and addressing the cracks in her faith and how her father's job effects her life. Samara's faith isn't perfect and neither is her family, like some people would expect it to be.
  • Samara's mom - While it sucked for Sam that her mom was away, I was glad to see a character with an addiction who was portrayed as being aware of what she needed to do in order to recover. She wasn't going to go home before she was fully ready. She seemed to realize that taking some more time to focus on herself was going to help her family more than rushing back to them.
  • ending - This book takes on some issues that are hefty and complicated - things that can take years or lifetimes to sort out - and the ending felt resolved enough, but wasn't unrealistically tying everything up perfectly.

  • Samara's attitude - Sam's sense of self preservation was seriously lacking! Someone she knows goes missing and she suddenly develops a habit of going out at all hours without telling anyone? I could maybe understand if it happened once...but it continued and she almost got a nasty education on the possible repercussions. 
  • Erin - Her personality bothers me - she's like a substitute teacher who is fresh out of college and so over-eager that no one takes her seriously. It's great to be enthusiastic about your job, but she pushes too hard, and Sam's not making it easy, but we see everything from her POV...so Erin comes off as annoying.
  • Samara's dad - One of my pet peeves in books is an MC who really needs to have a heart-to-heart with a parent, but just...won't. [Unsolicited life advice time - Your problems aren't going to evaporate if you ignore them, especially if they involve people you are in constant contact with, so work up the nerve to address those issues!] So, besides Sam's reluctance to talk to her dad about, well anything, there is a lack of them discussing, or even mentioning God or faith to each other. Faith in YA doesn't sell well. If it did, it would be everywhere, like vampires. Once something becomes popular, a million and one similar ideas get the support they need to make it to shelves. This book left me wondering if the strained relationship with Sam and her dad was just an inventive way to avoid actually writing about God and faith in a book supposedly about a crisis of faith. 

  • Why does everything have to be broken right now? I think of Job, in the Old Testament, who lost everything. He didn't just lose everything, God took everything away from him - his wife, his kids, everything he owned. Despite it all, Job kept on believing that God knew what he was doing. Well I don't. I hit the fridge door with my open hand,  hard, and it's all I can do not to smash my glass onto the floor.              - pg. 77   Samara
  • I wonder if that's how it feels to my dad, still. That everyone thinks he's crazy, or that he has all the answers. I just want him to have some of the answers. "Remember what my dad said. You could be God's Chosen Waiter."   "Yeah, well, your dad makes everything sound meaningful, and easy."   "It's an act."             - pg. 104   Samara + Daniel

3 robots
I was a bit disappointed because I expected this to have a lot more about God and faith, but it is a great exploration of Samara's family and the things we take for granted.

Acquired: bought


  1. Thanks for the honest review! I've been meaning to read this one for sooo long. It's too bad that the author tip toed around talking about faith & God, especially since that's supposed to be a key aspect of the book.

  2. Great book review! Here's mine if you don't mind: http://lorxiebookreviews.blogspot.com/2012/08/once-was-lost-by-sara-zarr.html

    Thanks and have a nice day!!!


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