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Once Was Lost

3.7  ·  Rating Details ·  5,172 Ratings  ·  740 Reviews
As a pastor's kid, it's hard not to buy into the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reasons 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 goes missing, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam's personal one, and ...more
Audiobook, 6 pages
Published October 13th 2009 by Listening Library (Audio) (first published October 1st 2009)
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Sara Walton I bought this book from the dollar tree, so if it is horrible I wouldn't have wasted much money on it! lol
Anna Yeah, I'm also a little sad that there was no confrontation or revelation as to what was really going on, too.
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Community Reviews

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Emily May
Mar 30, 2012 Emily May rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

The more I read by Sara Zarr, the more I think I understand her and the more I begin to appreciate what it is she does. She doesn't take sides, she isn't emotionally manipulative, she releases a whole bunch of complex characters that aren't typically likeable and allows the reader to receive them however they choose. I think this is why I failed to appreciate Story of a Girl, because the issues targeted in it are very important to me and I wanted the author to fight for Deanna, to stand up for
Mar 06, 2011 Tatiana rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Tatiana by: Tommy Tomato
Shelves: ala-ya-2010, 2011
Once Was Lost is a book about faith. About losing it and finding it.

Yes, I know how it sounds. Nothing can stop me from reading a book quicker than knowledge that I am about to delve into some "Christian fiction." I am not a religious person and dislike being preached at.

But in this novel Samara's waning faith in God is similar to a non-religious person's belief in the good in the world. Sam feels hopeless. Everything seems to fall apart - her house, her family (Sam's pastor father is distant an
Neil (or bleed)

“I wonder how you're supposed to know the exact moment when there's no more hope.”

I have read 5 books from Sara Zarr (including this one) and I can say that this book is my least favorite. Not that it wasn't good. It was good. I bet some people will like it more than I do. (Actually, some Goodreads people liked it more than I do haha). It's just that I didn't get attached whole-heartedly with the main character, who is Samara. And sometimes, I did feel I can't connect with the story either.
Sep 09, 2011 Janina rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Janina by: Nomes
Street Corner TBR Pile reduction challenge #7 (Olivia)

I seldom read books about faith and religion, simply because, as what you could consider a non-believer, they are rarely something I can relate to.

In this case, I have to say, Sara Zarr really succeeded in creating a very relatable heroine, not only for people who can identify themselves with her faith, but also for everyone else. This book does not preach, and although Samara's situation is closely linked to her disappearing faith in God, h
Oct 26, 2011 Catie rated it liked it
Shelves: read-in-2011, ya, audio
3 1/2 stars

While I can now say unequivocally that I am a committed Sara Zarr fan, this one is probably my least favorite of hers. Like her other novels, it’s well written and replete with honest, bare emotion, but for some reason I didn’t connect with this one completely. For me, her books belong in two categories: there’s the more bristly, damaged, and difficult category for Story of a Girl and Sweethearts, and then there’s the melancholy but hopeful category for How to Save a Life and this boo
May 21, 2011 Nomes rated it really liked it
Author Sara Zarr goes from strength to strength with her writing. Story of a Girl and Sweethearts are both beautifully told quiet and courageous stories but I think Once Was Lost is my favourite so far.

While the religious premise may make some mainstream readers hesitant, it is so honestly portrayed that it's not about religion at all, rather one girl coming to terms with faith, hopelessness, searching for the truth and trying to find her place in the world: not issues unique to Christians, rath
I am in love with this book.

Dear Sara Zarr,

The only other book I have read by your magical self is Sweethearts. Maybe I need to read it again, because I don't remember liking it that well and we are clearly MEANT TO BE.

Love, Erin

Yep, didn't feel like writing the whole review in letter form cause who does that? (I say that with love toward all of you fine reviewers who do just that.) ;)

But, unfortunately, I can't put my feelings about this book into words very well right now. Maybe ever. I'll try
Nov 13, 2009 Cara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"I want to believe the stories, that there really is someone who would search the whole mountainside just to find that one thing that he loves, and bring it home."

I am at a total loss as what to rate this book. But one thing I can say for sure is that it gave me a lot to mull over and analyze, that I even thought about how I felt at the age of 15 again.

At Samara's age I can remember being very contemplative like she was in the story. She feels the urge to mature and to fully grasp the understan
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr is set in the small town of Pineview. Samara Taylor is fifteen and lives with her father, Charlie, the town’s pastor. She remembers a happier time last summer, spending time with her parents but now her mother is in rehab and Samara feels like everything in her life is breaking or already broken. Her father is ignoring the problems they’re facing, like her mother being in rehab and the fact that they rely on the town to pay their bills, and while he’s good at being the ...more
I am a big fan of Sara Zarr’s work (see: Story of a Girl and How To Save a Life), particularly the quiet emotion that permeates her strong, character-driven stories.

Once Was Lost is no exception.

For a novel that deals with questions of faith, Zarr approaches the subject matter with accessibility and lack of agenda. Sam’s struggle with belief is relatable because it’s anchored in very human emotion and circumstances: while a small community is shaken by the disappearance of a young girl, Sam’s
Cassi aka Snow White Haggard
I have a weakness for books with intelligent discussions of religion, especially books like Once Was Lost with accurate portrayals of doubt. They speak to my life experience, especially since losing my grandfather 2 years ago. At times, faith is a struggle. Faith is a central theme without the book feeling overly religious or anti-religious.

As a pastor's kid, Sam's family is supposed to be perfect. Her father is the young hip pastor of the only growing church in her small town. Her mother is a f
Dec 01, 2009 Valerie rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Valerie by: Cara
This isn't one of those books that just slaps you in the face with happy feelings at the end and I usually go for those types of books. So I wasn't sure I'd like this book because I usually don't like depressing books. Don't judge me, okay! It wasn't depressing but I wouldn't say happy. However, I was surprised to find that I liked this book and even more that I in a way appreciated it. I'll admit that I was on the fence of give this book 4 stars but I decided not to for these reasons:

Sam has h
Feb 12, 2014 Hallie rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: ya
Here's my LJ write-up, minus a bit of irrelevant book-burbling. (Also minus some formatting, no doubt, so the original is here.) (Edited as I noticed a horrific number of typos, when I went to check whether the title of this book had been changed to "What We Lost". It has, and why the change, I've no idea.)

Last night I started (and stayed up way too late to finish) Sara Zarr's Once Was Lost, which was just wonderful. Still too close to it to do much beyond a bit of raving, but it's at least some
Oct 31, 2011 Sesana rated it liked it
Sorry to say, but this was a bit disappointing. I love Sara Zarr, she's very talented, and she was writing well in this book, too. There's just way, way too much going on in a short (210 pages) book. Samara's mother has been bundled off to rehab, her father isn't dealing with it, she's having a crisis of faith, she suspects her father's having an affair, a girl she knows has been kidnapped, and she's developing a romance with the kidnapped girl's brother, who has a girlfriend. That's a lot for a ...more
Marjorie Light
Oct 04, 2009 Marjorie Light rated it it was amazing
Glad I found ONCE WAS LOST By Sara Zarr

Oh, Sara Zarr! I have been waiting all of my life for this book. This is the book I longed for when I searched the shelves of my local library; the one I could only dream of while perusing the big bookstore when we went to the city. You did it, although too late for the girl I used to be, the teens of today will find it. And love it.

In her latest novel, ONCE WAS LOST, Zarr shows the truth of growing up as a child of faith – one immersed in the church. Altho
Oct 29, 2012 Sandra rated it really liked it
This review was first published on Clear Eyes Full Shelves

A perfect flower graces the cover of Sara Zarr’s Once Was Lost. Its soft pink petals top a long, graceful stem. One perfect petal drifts from an otherwise unmarred blossom like a tear falling to the ground.

Blemished perfection symbolized as a lone teardrop perfectly represents Sam’s life. Samara, Sam to her family and friends, lives in a cushioned and beautiful world of her family’s creation. Her fa
Jun 15, 2009 Lucy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Lucy by: Molly McLeod
Shelves: teen, 2009
Samara Taylor is the daughter of popular, charismatic Pastor Charlie. Everyone loves Pastor Charlie, who always knows the right thing to say and always has time for everyone. Everyone except his family. Everyone except Sam, who is alone after her mother's quiet drinking problem resulted in a DUI which landed her in rehab. Sam, who is not even sure if she believes in the God she always took for granted anymore.

And that's when tragedy strikes. A girl goes missing from their small town, and suddenl
Aug 14, 2010 Maggie rated it it was ok
I didn't really connect with this book. At first it was interesting with Sam, the MC, questioning her faith, which I think a lot of people can relate to. But then the plot took an unexpected turn and I wasn't sure what to make of it. I guess it was kind of like a parable because the event is something that certainly tests people's limits.

Sam was a frustrating character. She was too angry/sad in a way that I don't think really corresponded with her personal issues. Not that she didn't have stres
Oct 19, 2009 Rachel rated it it was ok
Shelves: ya
This book is about a girl who's father has always been a pastor and everyone has always viewed her as her father's daughter the god girl. Only thing is her mother has always been a secret alcoholic and made her doubt there is a god in any fashion. Now her mother is staying at New Beginnings a rehab facility and her father doesn't want to give her the time of day. A local girl goes missing and Sam starts to connect with her older brother. Only thing is he's a suspect and shes forbidden to be alon ...more
Library Lady
Book+ ****

I've heard it said by many that authors shouldn't narrate their own work. I mostly believe this to be true. Sometimes it works-- as in the case of "The Graveyard Book" by Neil Gaiman-- but with this book, it doesn't. Zarr may understand the emotional intensity of her work, but she doesn't know how to convey that vocally.

However, her only so-so reading didn't detract from enjoyment of the story at all. I've gone to church my whole life-- quite literally-- and I was extremel
Jul 11, 2010 Lawral marked it as read-but-unowned
Shelves: ya
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 re ...more
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Adele Griffin
May 21, 2011 Adele Griffin rated it it was amazing
Sara Zarr is a thoughtful, elegant writer who finds such exquisite truths and beauty in small moments while not shying from the full punch of Big questions. This story is a fascinating meditation on faith, wrapped in the pacing of a thriller. Unusual and provocative and populated with charming and yet highly complicated characters (and a heartbreakingly poignant protagonist in the pastor's daughter, Sam), there is something of Anne Tyler in Zarr's writing-- which sets a provocative tone in the Y ...more
Alex Serafini
Jan 10, 2016 Alex Serafini rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What We Lost, by Sarah Zarr was a good book. It had some really good parts that I really enjoyed because it was very descriptive and seemed as though it was really happening. I didn't expect this book to be as good as it was so I'm happy I decided to pursue it. This book was about a young girl who had gone missing and her small town went on a big search for her.
"Jody Shaw was taken off the street while walking to Petey's Ice Cream after church, wearing her favorite orange T-shirt. No one saw w
Jun 10, 2014 NebraskaIcebergs rated it it was amazing
Shelves: own
Fifteen-year-old Sam is a pastor’s daughter who has more than enough reasons to doubt God. Her mother has landed in rehab after a third DUI. Her father seems more interested in his congregation than in his own daughter. When a young girl from her neighborhood goes missing, Sam begins to wonder where God is in the midst of her “Venn diagram of tragedy”. Sara Zarr tackles issues of faith head-on in her third novel, Once was Lost.

Sam used to help her dad get ready for the Sunday services, and praye
Sep 22, 2009 Jessica rated it it was amazing
Shelves: youngadult
Sara Zarr has a real gift for getting into the heart of a teenager. Her characters are so unbelievably real, that you simply cannot put the book down until you know what's happened to them. This book was no exception, in fact, it's my favorite of hers so far. A beautiful book about faith and family and life. I cannot recommend it highly enough.
Leigh  Kramer
Aug 21, 2015 Leigh Kramer rated it really liked it
In some ways, reading Once Was Lost was like flipping through my old diary. Though our circumstances were entirely different, the universal themes rang true. I couldn't help but reflect on what I'd do if I were in Sam's shoes and I completely related to her doubts and fears. Compelling read.
J.D. Holman
Apr 16, 2016 J.D. Holman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: teen-ya, ebook, religion
I was looking for a YA novel with a positive Christian experience and a friend suggested this. It was very engrossing, and I enjoyed it. The overall plot was engaging - not quite a thriller, as the protagonist/narrator isn't all that involved with the crime, but in that vein.

I do find it interesting that when Christianity is a plot element in YA novels, it's about having doubts and/or finding faith (often involving miracles, or things that seem miraculous). When other faiths are explored at thi
Mar 31, 2012 Britt rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
This was a pleasant surprise as it's not a book that I would normally read. Zarr's writing is pitch perfect and she weaves completely believable plots and characters.
Yes, yes, yes.

Ever since I read Story of a Girl, I've known I loved this author. But the 2 books I've read by Zarr since then have fallen short of my expectations. This one...ahhhhh. Here it is. Everything I love about contemporary YA. A real protagonist. A real boy (and a nice one!) for the love interest. Real family issues. Real teen issues. I love, love, love this book!

In Once Was Lost, Sam is struggling with her faith after her alcoholic mother goes to rehab and her pastor father is too busy
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Sam's dad *spoilers* 6 35 Jan 29, 2015 08:29PM  
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Sara Zarr is the acclaimed author of four novels for young adults: Story of a Girl (National Book Award Finalist), Sweethearts (Cybil Award Finalist), Once Was Lost (a Kirkus Best Book of 2009) and How to Save a Life. Her short fiction and essays have also appeared in Image, Hunger Mountain, and several anthologies. She lives in Salt Lake City, Utah, with her husband, and online at ...more
More about Sara Zarr...

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“I wonder how you're supposed to know the exact moment when there's no more hope.” 38 likes
“It's not words, so much, just my mind going blank and thoughts reaching up up up, me wishing I could climb through the ceiling and over the stars until I can find God, really see God, and know once and for all that everything I've believed my whole life is true, and real. Or, not even everything. Not even half. Just the part about someone or something bigger than us who doesn't lose track. I want to believe the stories, that there really is someone who would search the whole mountainside just to find that one lost thing that he loves, and bring it home.” 20 likes
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