Monday, April 04, 2011

Review: Once Was Lost

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

Goodreads description:

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.

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

First off, I love this cover. It's so depressing and beauiful at the same time, and that's exactly what the actual book is like. I enjoyed Once Was Lost  from the first page on - Sara Zarr's writing is amazing! I don't even know what made the writing so great, it was just so beautiful and vivid. She created a great atmosphere - it was dark and depressing, but somehow still beautiful. It made me cry quite a few times - even though the plot isn't the saddest I've read, there was just something about that style...

The characters were great as well. Sam was incredibly easy to understand and relate to. Especially her social awkwardness was portrayed realistically and believably. One thing I didn't get, though, was how Sam blamed her social problems on being "the pastor's kid". I know three girl's whose fathers are pastors, and none of them have that kind of problems, at least after people have known them for a while. Obviously, they're just examples, and it's not impossible that people don't want to be friends with someone because their father is a pastor, but how Sam blamed her family was a bit overdone, in my opinion, as I think her social problems have more to do with shyness than with her father.

Another character I loved was Nick - he was so sweet, and the relationship between Sam and Nick developed very naturally - I hate when romance seems forced in books, and that definitely wasn't the case here. The dad's character was great and complex, too - even though I heard about him only from Sam's point of view, I could really understand his inner struggle and felt for him at times, too. We didn't get to see Sam's mom all that much, but her impact (or rather, the impact of her absence) was portrayed really well, too, so I could easily imagine Sam's relationship with her mom. Daniel and Vanessa, Samara's friends, weren't developed all that well, though. They seemed pretty one-dimensional, and while they didn't play an all that important role in the plot, it would have seemed more realistic if they had actual personalities we could hear a bit about, rather than just showing what people think of Sam.

Usually, I'm wary of books dealing with religion - I think that's something every person has to decide for themself. In this book, though, I really enjoyed that aspect. The questions she asked were believable and easy to relate to, something I've thought, too, and I'm sure you have as well. Her struggle with belief was portrayed very well.

One thing I didn't really get, though, was the title. In my opinion, Once Was Lost doesn't fit all that well, as Sam used to not be lost, but when the reader gets to know her (and for most of the novel), she is lost. It's more like the opposite of Once Was Lost. Maybe this has to do with the optimistic ending, but honestly, Sam's progress started too late in the novel to justify the title, in my opinion.

While the plot dealing with Jody's disappearance added a lot to the main plot and was interesting to read about, I think it's turned into too big a deal at times. I don't mean emotionally - of course it's a big deal for the parents (and the whole town) if a young girl is kidnapped - but it was mentioned a few times that her disappearance was on national TV, and that people from all over the country offered to help search for her and sent the family all kinds of stuff, which I don't think is realistic - too many kids go missing for it to be broadcasted on the news like that each time.

The next paragraph contains information on the ending - don't read on if you have not yet read Once Was Lost!
I'm split on what to make of the ending. On, the one hand, I loved Sam's character so much that I wanted her to have the happy ending she deserved. I like hopeful, optimistic endings, but on the other hand, I just don't think Jody coming back unhurt is realistic, and the happy ending didn't fit the solemn tone of the rest of the book.

I know I mentioned quite a few things I disliked about this book, but those are all just little things - overall, this is a great book! I love the author's writing, and the characters were multi-dimensional and relatable. I'll definitely read some of Sara Zarr's other books soon!


  1. Good review. The story sounds quite interesting!

  2. I love the cover too! I agree with you on forced relationships and I'm happy this isn't one of them. Looks like a great read.

  3. Same with you, I love the cover too :) The review also pick my curiosity :D


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