Summary and book reviews of Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

Once Was Lost

By Sara Zarr

Once Was Lost
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Hardcover: Oct 2009,
    224 pages.
    Paperback: Jan 2011,
    224 pages.

    Publication Information

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Book Reviewed by:
Pam Watts

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Book Summary

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.

In her third novel, acclaimed author Sara Zarr examines the coexistence of affliction and hope, and what happens when everything you thought you believed---about God, about your family, about yourself---is transformed.

Day 1
Saturday, early August.

The whole world is wilting.

Shriveling. Giving up. Dying.

Maybe not the whole world. Somewhere, I guess, it’s not ninety-one degrees at four in the morning. I would like to be in that place. I would like to be somewhere, anywhere, that life feels possible and not smothered under a layer of heat and hopelessness. I’m tired of waking up every two hours in a puddle of sweat, and tired of every day discovering there’s something else that’s ruined or broken or falling apart. Yesterday it was the TV. Today, it’s the ceiling fan in my room, the brokenness of which I discovered when I woke up wondering where the air went. I slipped out the sliding glass door into the backyard hoping for a miracle of something below eighty, and I now realize I can add the yard to the list of minor tragedies that make up my life these days.

The solar luminaries my dad put in last summer give just enough light that I can see the disaster...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. When Sam assumes responsibility for her mother, how does Sam's life change? Why does Sam choose to be responsible for her mom instead of letting her father take care of his wife? What does Sam sacrifice?
  2. Why does Sam avoid conversation, even with her best friend, about her mother? After Sam's mother leaves, why does Sam continue to avoid going out with her friends?
  3. Sam's father is the pastor of the largest church in town; everyone knows her family. When Sam's mother is placed in rehab for her alcoholism, why doesn't Sam's father tell the church the truth about his wife? Why does this create a problem for Sam? What are the issues between Sam and her dad? How are they intensified ...
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Reviews

BookBrowse

At its heart, Once Was Lost is about a girl living through family life so painful that it causes her to question her long-held faith in God. It's a good book for thinking and reflecting, for feeling and remembering. I recommend it to anyone who has lived through tough times and has found herself asking: Is there a God? And if so, where is he?   (Reviewed by Pam Watts).

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Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

Beyond delivering a gripping story, Zarr has a knack for exposing human weakness in the ordinary.

School Library Journal

This multilayered exploration of the intersection of the spiritual life and imperfect people features suspense and packs an emotional wallop.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. This rare combination of in-depth character study and gripping mystery relies on a strong sense of emotional truth to do justice to some tough subject matter without graphic or violent scenes. Riveting.

School Library Journal

This multilayered exploration of the intersection of the spiritual life and imperfect people features suspense and packs an emotional wallop.

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Beyond the Book

The Nones
Because the US Census doesn't collect information about religious affiliation, the American Religious Identification Survey (ARIS) began its own survey in 1990 with 113,000 interviews, and followed up with 54,000 in 2008.

According to the ARIS Survey, Nones make up 15% of the US adult population, up from 8% in 1990. So who are they? Nones are simply the growing number of folks who answer "none" when asked for their religious identity or affiliation. Which doesn't mean they're necessarily non-believers - only about 7% of Nones are atheists, a third identify as agnostic and over half believe in a higher power.

In the general US population, while the number of atheists and agnostics has more than tripled in the last ...

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