I received Lost & Found from Penguin Canada as part of their Bloggers & Books Network.
I have to say, I was excited to get Lost & Found frI received Lost & Found from Penguin Canada as part of their Bloggers & Books Network.
I have to say, I was excited to get Lost & Found from Penguin Canada. The jacket blurb sounded interesting, if a little quirky. Quirky can be good. Unfortunately, despite Brooke Davis’s lovely and quirky writing style, something about this book just didn’t click with me.
The premise is interesting enough: a young girl abandoned by her mother in a department store joins forces with two elderly people to travel across Australia to reunite mother and daughter. Madcap road trips are always fun to read.
Millie Bird, the young protagonist, has been abandoned in a department store by her mother. She takes the directive, “Wait here” literally (as children do), so she waits by the “Ginormous Women’s underwear rack” for her. Another important thing to know about Millie is that she’s death obsessed. As in, keeps a journal of everything and everyone she knows that has died, and takes comfort in telling people that they’re going to die as well (and that it’s okay). I just wanted someone to give Millie a hug throughout the book.
She meets Karl the Touch Typist at the mall. His quirk is that he types out everything in the air, which he used to do on his wife’s skin. He’s broken out of the nursing home his son put him in, so naturally once he finds out Millie’s problem, he resolves to help her. Not in the normal, responsible way (calling the police).
Finally, there’s Agatha Pantha (which is kind of an awesome name in a Bond Girl way), a miserable old widow who lives across the street from Millie. Her husband died and she retreated into her house, never leaving. She writes faithfully in a journal and yells at the passerbys from the window. She decides to help Millie too, venturing outside for the first time in years. Again, not in the normal, responsible way.
Despite the imaginative characters, I just couldn’t find myself believing that these three would successfully complete their goal nor could I suspend the realities that hovered in the background (how did Millie stay in a department store undetected, why did no adult call the police when they found out what was going on, why didn’t Karl or Agatha act more responsibly instead of giving into the whims of a seven-year-old).
However, I loved Brooke Davis’s writing style, especially the whimsy and how she managed to write with both wisdom and innocence depending on the point of view. I’d be interested in reading whatever comes next from her, whether it’s as quirky as Lost & Found or more straightforward....more
I received Etta and Otto and Russell and James from Penguin Canada as part of their Bloggers & Books Network.
This whimsical novel tells the storyI received Etta and Otto and Russell and James from Penguin Canada as part of their Bloggers & Books Network.
This whimsical novel tells the story of Etta, an octogenarian who one day decides to leave her Saskatchewan farm to walk to Halifax because she’d never seen the ocean before. She leaves behind her husband, Otto, who has already seen the ocean, and family friend Russell, who wants to find her. Along her journey she meets James, a coyote who can communicate with her telepathically.
I’ll admit that the plot made me wonder if the story would live up to all the raves I’d seen online. I mean, walking from Saskatchewan to Halifax just to see water? As someone who finds walking to be a chore, I can’t imagine just suddenly one day getting up and deciding that I’m going to walk to Saskatchewan, no matter how badly I want to see prairie fields. Also, she could’ve cut her journey short if she’d stopped in New Brunswick by the Confederation Bridge, no? But whatever, Halifax is awesome. Everyone should come see it.
The story worked in spite of my concerns. I really appreciated Emma Hooper’s writing style. There was a pervading feeling of loneliness and melancholy throughout the story, imbued in both the characters and the setting. The starkness of the landscape pushes Etta into leaving to visit the ocean; and the characters really only know how to exist as it pertains to the land and nature – tracking animals, monitoring farm seasons, hunting to survive, to name a few.
Otto and Russell, from the time they’re children, have really only had each other to rely on. Aside from the flashbacks of their time at school, and Otto’s time overseas during World War I, I got the sense that they never really branched out beyond those brief experiences, and the two are a well-oiled machine. And Etta, who relied on her sister in her youth, Otto and Russell in her adulthood, and the magical James late in life, seems the loneliest to me. Her memories are fading and twisting with Otto’s memories of the battlefields, and the longer she walks the more twisted they become.
I’m not sure that I would’ve picked up this book at the library, if I’m being honest. It seems like the little-old-person-walking-a-great-distance-to-fulfill-some-lifelong-quest genre has really hit its stride in the past few years. I am glad that I read this though. The simplicity of the writing hid the monumental meanings behind every sentence, and Emma Hooper spared nothing when it came to writing this sparse yet profound story.
If I have one definite criticism it’s that I’m not sure I understand the point of Russell. To me it just seems like he was tossed in to demonstrate how Etta and Otto are “burdened” by him and how unfair his life is. He showed up on Otto’s family farm one day and became an honourary family member, and then competed for Etta’s affection when they grew. After Etta leaves, he becomes irate that Otto isn’t looking for her and decides to bring her back himself, but when she won’t go, he decides not to head back home either, and that’s just about the last time we hear from him.
I definitely recommend that you read this book....more