One of the advantages to working in a library is that you get first dibs on any new books that come in. Since it's an academic setting, that means that we have to sift through a lot of tomes on exciting topics like basic business management, geriatric nursing, and that thriller of the year, rural analysis and management. Wheeee.
But every once in a while, some goodies slip through the cracks. A few days ago, one of the catalogers came up to me and pressed a small novel into my hands. "Lisa," she said, "you HAVE to read this." The book was What Was Lost, by Catherine O'Flynn, and had been short- and longlisted for a number of prestigious awards.
I'll be honest. Awards books are often so overhyped that by the time I get around to reading them, I end up disappointed and annoyed. Not necessarily because they're bad books, but because my expectations were raised to the point where pretty much nothing could fulfill them. So I went into this fully prepared to feel like yawning and deciding to invest my time in devouring a bag of Smith's salt and vinegar potato chips instead (those things are crack - do yourself a favor and never, ever eat them). So I'm pleased to say that the chips never even crossed my mind.
This is a fascinating, compelling little book, alternately funny and heartbreaking (sometimes on the same page, or even in the same paragraph). In the beginning, we are introduced to a curious 10-year-old loner named Kate Meany, who, with her "Top Secret" detective notebook and stuffed monkey Mickey, spends her time conducting surveillance at the monolithic Green Oaks mall. Fast forward twenty years, and we discover that one day Kate simply disappeared - the primary suspect is her unlikely friend Adrian, a man meandering aimlessly through life. The remainder of the novel is penned through the eyes of Adrian's sister Lisa, stuck in a dead end job and dead end relationship, and Kurt, an unfulfilled security guard at Green Oaks.
This is really an extraordinary debut novel - a moving and occasionally devastating exploration of loss, loneliness, hope, friendship, and how the choices we make have long lasting consequences - sometimes even more than we know. Today I'm taking it back to the library. I need to give it to someone else and tell them they have to read it. Because you do.
(root) beer me. - i've been looking for a good reason to bust this out: so when i found this recipe for root beer float cookies that i'd saved on one of my pinterest boards...