By Melinda Guerra
She loves her mum but she hates her too. Can you love and hate the same person? If you love them more than you hate them, will they forgive you? Will they let you find them? She takes off her goggles, leans back in her seat, and surveys the length of everything out there, and it feels as if nothing will ever, ever end, or begin.
—Lost & Found, pg 189
There are people for whom a child on screen (or, presumably, in a book) can be too precocious. When watching a movie with my husband and a too-old-for-her-years kid comes on screen, I smile and imagine my niece saying something equally witty; my husband scoffs and mutters about the character.
People who would mutter along with my husband might prefer to stay away from this book (in your defense, the author acknowledges her rejection of at least some encouragement to “cut the cute”). People who would smile at the witty observations even we find unlikely coming from the seven year old sometime narrator should probably check out the book (in our defense, well, the book).
Millie, one of three main characters who take turns as narrators in Brooke Davis’ Lost & Found, is just seven years old. In the opening pages of the book, we discover her dog has died, and then the old man crossing the street, and then twenty-five assorted animals/people/insects, and then her dad– Millie keeps track of all of them in her Book of Dead Things. We first see the next narrator, widowed Karl the Touch Typist, when Millie does– after her mother has left her in the underwear section of a mall department store telling her I’ll be right back and Millie eventually goes exploring and wanders to the food court (a compliant child, she’d waited in place for a while before eventually going on a short walk in the mall, being sure to leave a note in her place: To Mum, I’ll Be Right Back). We watch him kill a fly on Millie’s first day in the store (she adds the fly to her Book of Dead things and scoops it into a jar), and on her second day — after a long night in the store without her mother’s return– she actually meets Karl and makes him attend the fly’s funeral with her.
Karl carefully lowers the candle into the jar and hands it back to Millie. She ties the jar to the rack, and the fly dangles behind a row of flesh-colored undies.
You need to say something, she says to Karl.
Me? Karl says, pointing to himself.
Yes, you, Millie says, pointing at him pointing to himself. You did it. You made a Dead Thing. Aren’t you sorry? Her head detaches itself and she’s watching her dad squish the spider with his shoe.
Was he sorry?
Of course, Karl says, putting his hands on his hips. Of course, he repeats. But, he says, taking a big breath, it’s a fly.
Yes. Millie nods. You’re right. It is a fly.
Karl looks down at Millie. Millie looks up at Karl.
Karl sighs. What should I say?
What would you like someone to say at your funeral?
Karl stares at his feet. I doubt anyone will say anything.
Well, Millie says, crossing her arms, you need to say something.
Why do you know so much about these things?
Why don’t you? she says.
—Lost & Found, pages 25 – 26
Agatha, the angry old neighbor many of us remember as children, comes into the picture a short while later, and completes the trio of narrators we follow through the story, living a few pages at a time through each of them.
You have to get pregnant first! And four-year-olds–
Same thing. You can’t get pregnant!
You have to get your! Your! Agatha gulps. Your monthly womanly visitor!
Are they from the government?
Good God, no!
Where from, then?
They’re not from anywhere!
Why are they called visitors, then?
That’s just what we say!
Agatha sighs loudly. Okay, I give up! Someone from the government comes to your house and makes you a woman!
—Lost & Found, pg 113
It’s a fun book, despite the fact that the story begins with Millie’s dad’s death and proceeds with her mother’s leaving her alone in a store. The three narrators take us with them as they escape security and nursing homes, evade police, hitchhike, and steal a car (and a bus)… all in the quest to help Millie find her mother. On the way, of course, they find a lot more– it’s a fun book that will make you laugh, with characters that inevitably remind you of someone you love, if not of yourself. It’s about dealing with death and loss, and about shutting yourself away in an effort to avoid both, about growing old and about being young, about choosing who you get to be, and about never being too old to get to create your story. And it’s cute. If you’re in the mood for something gentle on the spirit, it’s quite possibly the book for you.
Lost & Found is available now at Greenville Public Library.