There are moments in my life when I like to take a step back from the realities and elude into a world of reveries.
This happens frequently when lost in a book that I just can’t put down.
This is the case with Lost & Found, a debut novel by Australian travel writer and first-time novelist Brooke Davis that has already conjured up plenty of attention and reviews.
In this tale, Davis attempts to use whimsy as a delivery mechanism for a meditation on loss and loneliness among the very young and very old.
It changes the way you see the world and those around you, even if just for a little.
Seven-year-old Millie Bird in her red gumboots is obsessed with death, inscribing her encounters with dead things in a “Book of Dead Things.”
As a result of losing her husband and Millie’s father, it’s not long before Millie’s unstable mother drops her at a Perth department store by the “Ginormous Women’s Underwear” section and never returns.
Millie spends a couple of nights hiding out in the store, seemingly undetected by anyone except a mannequin she treats as a companion and an old man she approaches in the store’s café who identifies himself as “Karl the Touch Typist.”
Karl is battling his own grief after the loss of his wife. Finally caught by store security, Millie, with Karl’s help, escapes authorities and makes her way home, where an elderly neighbor, Agatha Pantha, an unpleasant shut-in following her husband’s death, somehow decides it would be better to accompany Millie to find her mother in Melbourne than to call the police.
Karl catches up with them and the unlikely trio (or more like foursome including Manny the Mannequin) travels across Australia.
Eccentrically quirky most times, yet offering pieces of poetic beauty, I was enthralled and touched by the characters. I even shed a few tears throughout this novel as certain moments and characters resonated with some special people in my life.
Plenty of times there are loosely connected series of quirky events that defy any sense of reality at all. But this is why I enjoyed it.
Some people will really embrace this and be utterly charmed by it, others will at times probably struggle with it and perhaps mock the absurdity.
The main characters are a riot, but it is the voice of Millie which really shines. I found her to be a wonderful and absolutely delightful character.
Millie’s seven year old questions and her theories of the way the world works are heart-wrenching, funny, and most of all accurate.
As a mother, the thought of leaving my seven year old forever completely tore at me. My daughter is six and like Millie, asks a million and one (very honest) questions as children are apt to do. And most often, the answers children get back are often misleading to avoid the “TMI”.
In one very humorous exchange with her father when discussing the demise of Rambo, which spills into a discussion about what happens to people after they die, her father talks about Heaven and Hell thus:
In Heaven, you hang out with God and Jimi Hendrix, and you get to eat doughnuts whenever you want. In Hell, you have to, uh … do the Macarena. Forever. To that ‘Grease Megamix’.
Where do you go if you’re good and bad?
What? I don’t know. Ikea?
Out of the grief each of these characters suffer at the open comes a life-affirming message: that while death catches up with us all in the end, until it does we can change in ways that will surprise, perhaps shock, us, and live life to the absolute fullest.
Most importantly, it reminds us not to judge what we see from others as we all have our own battles we are fighting. There’s a connection there among us if we make the effort to find it.
For me it verges into over-the-top on occasion but I have absolutely no doubt that this book will find a place within many people’s hearts (and bookshelves) as it did mine.
Enter to win your own copy of Lost & Found by Brooke Davis courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada.
Lost & Found Book Giveaway