BookBrowse Reviews Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Once Was Lost

by Sara Zarr

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr X
Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

  • First Published:
    Oct 2009, 224 pages
    Paperback:
    Jan 2011, 224 pages

  • Rate this book


Book Reviewed by:
Pam Watts

Buy This Book

About this Book

Reviews

BookBrowse:


A powerful novel for young adults about a teen struggling with her faith in the face of tragedy

Once Was Lost is a difficult book for me to review right now because it hits a little too close to home. At its heart, it's a book about a girl living through family life so painful that it causes her to question her long-held faith in God. It feels true. I'd wager even the most existential, post-modern progressive when faced with real grief secretly asks, "How could you? Why would you?" as Samara asks God when Jody Shaw goes missing. There's something about deep, unfair, unreasonable pain that causes those of faith to doubt and those without faith to reach out to something more. "I don't know when God stopped being someone I saw as a true friend, and turned into something I'm mostly confused about," thinks Sam as she sits in the youth group of the church where her father is pastor.

As Christmas passed and I said goodbye to the troubled little boy I've helped raise and grown to love over the past year, I found myself asking many of the same questions as Samara: "Why does everything have to be broken right now?" "How would they react if I really did share [the painful things going on in my life]?" "Why should I even have to ask [for help]? You don't need to be all-powerful and all-knowing to figure out that this is a tragedy in need of divine intervention." "What would I want someone to say to me if a person I loved disappeared?" And, "I wonder if I expect too much?" Samara's questions are relevant to anyone in the thick of life at its ugliest.

This book is heartfelt, moving, and thought-provoking. Not that it's perfect: the story line of the teen girl-gone-missing and the continued mystery of who-done-it feels lifted from Norma Fox Mazer's The Missing Girl and placed on top of an already full and complex emotional story-line. Also, after so much turmoil, I could have used a bit more of an ending than the slight puff of fresh air and hope that Zarr gives us. But the teen voice feels authentic, the family dynamics feel real, and though it's definitely not a light book, it never feels so heavy that it drags, and the main character almost never feels too over-involved in her own pain.

Once Was Lost is 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

This review was originally published in January 2010, and has been updated for the January 2011 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This review is available to non-members for a limited time. For full access, become a member today.
Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

Support BookBrowse

Become a Member and discover books that entertain, engage & enlighten!

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: Sunburn
    Sunburn
    by Laura Lippman
    Crime writer Laura Lippman is both prolific and versatile. After spending years as a reporter for ...
  • Book Jacket: The Wife Between Us
    The Wife Between Us
    by Sarah Pekkanen, Greer Hendricks
    The Wife Between Us is an intriguing collaboration between first-time novelist Greer Hendricks and ...
  • Book Jacket: The Wife Between Us
    The Wife Between Us
    by Sarah Pekkanen, Greer Hendricks
    The Wife Between Us is an intriguing collaboration between first-time novelist Greer Hendricks and ...
  • Book Jacket: Only Child
    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin
    Rhiannon Navin's debut novel, Only Child received an overall score of 4.8 out of 5 from BookBrowse ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

A nuanced portrait of war, and of three women haunted by the past and the secrets they hold.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Only Child
    by Rhiannon Navin

    A dazzling, tenderhearted debut about healing, family, and the exquisite wisdom of children.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    The French Girl
    by Lexie Elliott

    An exhilarating debut psychological suspense novel for fans of Fiona Barton and Ruth Ware.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win Beartown

Now in Paperback!

From the author of a A Man Called Ove, a dazzling, profound novel about a small town with a big dream.

Enter

Word Play

Solve this clue:

T I M A Slip B C A L

and be entered to win..

Books that     
entertain,
     engage

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.