Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Summer of My Utah Writers: ONCE WAS LOST

I'm a BIG Sara Zarr fan. BIG. If you search this blog site to see how many times I've written about her, you'll find out how much I like this author; this person. Two reasons: 1) She is a remarkable writer; 2) she is a kind person.

When she presented at JCIRA last May, Sara talked about how she enjoys writing about family dynamics, and all three of her books testify of her expertise in so doing. Another important element she incorporates into these stories of families is a sense of hope.

While I really liked Story of a Girl and Sweethearts, I treasured Once Was Lost. It is my favorite SZ novel. Now this sort of amazes me because ofttimes authors who launch a critically acclaimed FIRST book fail to match their own success with their subsequent novels. Not so with Sara. She just gets better.

In Once Was Lost, Sara weaves together a story of lost faith, lost family ties, and lost family member. The catalyst that brings this all together is the kidnapping of a 13-year-old girl from one of the town's most respected families. But the Shaw family isn't the only ones experiencing loss.

Samara's pastor-father becomes less and less a father as he becomes more involved in shepherding his flock, comforting the grief-stricken Shaw family, and working with the exuberant youth counselor Erin.

Samara's mother slowly lost herself to the inebriated state of alcoholism. Sequestered in a rehabilitation facility, Sam's mother disappears into healing, which leaves Sam feeling even more alienated.

Sara pulls all this together with such tenderness that readers hurt for every character, but the weaknesses of each do not leave us without hope. That's what I love about this story. There is just not enough hope in families or society today. Because faith and hope prevail, the reader closes the book feeling that Samara and her family just might make it.

Make sure you pick up this book! It will touch your life.

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