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How To Be Lost: A Novel Paperback – 2 Feb 2006
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"'I read Amanda Eyre Ward's lovely How To Be Lost after a warm recommendation from a friend...it has that lovely tone that only American women writers seem to be able to achieve: melancholic, wry, apparently (but only apparently) artless, perched on the balls of its feet and ready to jump either towards humour or heartbreak, with no run-up and no effort. How To Be Lost has a great setup, too.' Nick Hornby"
"'The narrative is so engrossing, so propelling, you're surprised to come upon the last page...a damn good story.'" (Time Out New York)
"'A walloping knockout of a finisher that would seem like a cheap trick if it weren't so thrilling. The author plays a smooth game, not showing her hand until the absolute right time.'" (Kirkus)
"'This is one of those sink-your-teeth-into-it novels that reminds you why you loved to read in the first place.'" (The Charlotte Observer)
'Lovely...it has that lovely tone that only American women writers seem to be able to achieve' Nick Hornby
[How to Be Lost] invites comparison to The Lovely Bones.' People Magazine
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"But what if it is?"
I shook my head and stared at the picture. The girl looked like me, like Madeline. She looked like my mother."
This was indeed a page turner with many exciting characters. We meet the Winter family in this book; the children about to make an escape from their parents whom, they decided were treating them with indifference and taking them for granted.
They plotted from the day before, and were set to meet after school, but when meeting time came, the smallest sister Ellie did not turn up as expected.
From that time onwards, things go topsy turvy in the Winter family as Caroline and Madeline and their parents look for answers to what could had become of Ellie on this day.
Daughter Caroline, refuses to give up her search, especially when she sees a photograph in a People magazine of someone resembling what her sister would look like at twenty years. She travels far and wide to unravel this mystery, but towards the end the mystery is solved. Get the answers in this exciting drama.
Reviewed by Heather Marshall Negahdar (SUGAR-CANE 30/08/06)
The story is made up of three strands: Caroline's search for her lost sister, who went missing nearly thirty years ago; the diary entries of Agnes Fowler, a sheltered young woman living in the MidWest and rediscovering herself after her father's death; and the story of a man named Bertrand, who was engaged to Caroline's mother. It is a mark of Amanda Eyre Ward's writing that you have no idea how these stories are connected until she wants you to know. She writes with sensitivity and an eye for how family relationships can warp and sustain you at the same time. Best of all, she manages to give an ending that is both open and hopeful. Fans of Melissa Bank will like Caroline's wry voice as she catalogues her failures and her quest to finally resolve the mystery which has haunted her family for years. There is never any self-pity, only honesty.
This book is not a beach read; it is more autumnal, but don't let that put you off buying it now.
Get it today if not sooner!
I did enjoy reading the book and felt that the story told was a good one, it progressed interestingly and the suspense side of the story - around actually finding out what had happened to the sister - was particularly strong. However, I do think that the author could have taken this a little further and explored the issues presented more deeply, which is more what I expected from the book.
It all happened one afternoon fifteen years ago: Ellie became obsessed with wanting to runaway, in part to escape the fatherly abuse, but also for the thrill of the adventure. When Caroline, the oldest and the novel's narrator, receives her driver's license, the three girls decide to abscond New Orleans. But unhappily, the girls' plan must be aborted because five-year-old Ellie doesn't return from elementary school the afternoon they plan to flee.
Fifteen years later, Caroline has escaped to New Orleans, where she's living an aimless life, absorbed in her job as a cocktail waitress and spending her spare time drinking and partying. Distancing herself from her family, she's reluctant to go back to suburban Holt, New York even though her sister Madeline, now married and upwardly mobile, constantly asks her to; family reunions are a chore, with Christmases being the worst. So Caroline spends her days waiting and drifting, thinking about her mother's false cheer, her father's bloody death, and Madeline, always "looking towards her for hope."
Each blames the other for Ellie's disappearance, but it is their mother who is finding it hardest to cope. Now widowed, she gravitates between hyperactive joviality - an obsession with parties and entertaining - to a kind of willful resignation to find her long-lost youngest daughter. Tested to the depths of her soul, she fanatically wrestles with the resolution of past and present. When she thinks she sees a faint photograph of Ellie in an old People magazine article about a rodeo in Missoula, she tries persuades Caroline to go to Montana to search for her.
Of course, Caroline is initially reluctant to do so, but something draws her to the photograph; the resemblance to Ellie is startling - especially her eyes and her smile. But Caroline is sure that if Ellie had lived she would have called her. "For sixteen years, I had waited. Sometimes I stood by the window, willing her to turn the corner, to knock on my door. She waited, just outside my line of vision."
Caroline eventually reaches the small Montana town and befriends a stray soul that she believes to be Ellie, but things don't exactly work out as planned. For someone in the town has recognized the photos of Ellie that Caroline, in a fit of desperation, has been placing on notice boards and café walls. Missoula is a small town, and perhaps Ellie herself has seen the photographs?
Ward successfully provides an unforeseen, surprising, and emotionally resolute end to the story. Old family secrets are gradually revealed, and the sisters are provided with some answers to a mystery that has haunted them for years. The author assaults the reader with some of the most sparsely beautiful and controlled prose, the language perfectly formed: the heat had dimmed, but the smell of New Orleans seemed to grow stronger: old meat, sweat and beer."
Caroline knows that there is a reckoning to be had, and that she can't go on living a life, a prisoner of memory, gripped by the ghosts of her past. She must remake and try to salvage what is left of her broken family and hope that the shattered pieces will all fit together. "It was just loss pure and simple. Loss - its heavy ache; it made the tears run down my cheeks."
Through her cross-country road trip - her quest to find Ellie, Caroline will hopefully be able to unravel her conflicted feelings, and also find the answers to a loss that has so utterly consumed her family and a mystery that has so bitterly eluded them.
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It's a beautifully written story about 3 sisters and their journey.Read more