Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

Published in 2009. 217 pages.

I really enjoyed this young adult novel by Utah author Sara Zarr. This was the first of Zarr's work that I've read, but it certainly won't be the last.

The title of the book works as a metaphor in several different ways. I loved how the various meanings were unfolded as the story progressed. I also love the cover!

Here are some favorite passages, which specifically address the main character's crisis of faith:

A couple of weeks ago at church I passed by a Sunday school room where Jody was helping the kids with a craft project, sitting in one of the tiny preschooler chairs, her braids hanging dangerously close to the glue and glitter used to decorate pictures of Jonah in the belly of the whale. I stopped and watched, not because of Jody, but remembering my preschool self and how my mom would hang my Sunday school craft projects on the fridge. And what was on the fridge kind of summed up my faith. It was my parents', really, only belonging to me by default and habit. [page 49]

I wish I understood what happened between then and now. I wish there was a way to put your finger on the map of life and trace backwards, to figure out exactly when things had changed so much ... [page 69]

In my sock drawer I find a mini cross-stitched potpourri pillow I made for 4-H a long time ago. It's pink and green, my old favorite colors, and in neat block print reads: FAITH, HOPE, CHARITY.

I hold it to my nose and close my eyes. Wanting to smell lilac, wanting to smell freesia. None of the good scent is left; it just smells old. I open my eyes and toss it in the trash can, wishing that there was something to have faith in, hope for, or be charitable about. [page 165]

I lie on the bed while I wait for Dad, my mind drifting everywhere, until it lands on a prayer. I'm surprised, and resist it at first, but it keeps coming back. It's not words, so much, just my mind going blank and thoughts reaching up up up, me wishing I could climb through the ceiling and over the stars until I can find God, really see God, and know once and for all that everything I've believed my whole life is true, and real. Or, not even everything. Not even half. Just the part about someone or something bigger than us who doesn't lose track. I want to believe the stories, that there really is someone who would search the whole mountainside just to find that one lost thing that he loves, and bring it home. [page 199]

Natasha's (Maw Books) review is here. Tricia's (Library Queue) review is here

Update on October 28: Last week it was announced that Once Was Lost was the winner of the 2009 Utah Book Award for young adult literature. Congratulations to Sara Zarr!



  1. I read this book earlier this year and really enjoyed it. I've tried a second work by Zarr but it didn't grab me quite like this one did.

  2. Tricia: I've linked your review. Which other of Zarr's books did you try?

  3. This sounds good. I like that second quote you posted.
    Great review :)