Can you find something you never realised you lost?
This is the key question in Brooke Davis’ debut novel, and book number three on my 2016 ‘to read’ list. Lost and Found also deals with death and living, youth and aging, and right and wrong. It takes a while to get into it, as the characters are a bit bizarre, but soon you find yourself wanting to know what happens next to Millie, Karl and Agatha.
This took me a lot longer to read than usual because I had to stop reading it a third of the way into it. Death of a loved one is a key theme in this book, and I started reading this around the time my grandma passed away. It was far too hard to keep reading it, and not be constantly reminded of my grandma.
I picked it up back up again a couple of weeks ago, determined to get through it, so I could get started on the next book on my list!
It’s easy to see why this book has received so much critical praise – it’s witty, funny and emotionally gut-wrenching. I’d describe the humour as very similar to Jonas Jonasson’s The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out of a Window and Disappeared, but that’s where the similarities end. Where Jonasson’s novel is eccentric the whole way through, Lost and Found mixes humour with some serious notes. It’s highly relatable, and you’ll find yourself identifying with one of the three main characters, or maybe even all.
If you want to skip the spoilers, scroll down to the verdict.
When we first meet the three main characters, Millie Bird, Karl the Typist, and Agatha Pantha, all we know is that they’ve all lost a loved one: Millie lost her mum (or rather, her mum lost her), Karl lost the love of his life and wife, Edie, and Agatha lost her husband who she maybe loved, Ron. We don’t know how their lives are connected, or why they’ve been thrown together.
Millie Bird, 7, has always been fascinated by death that when her father dies, she takes a very analytical approach to it to try understand why her father was taken away and where he goes. She’s always talking about dead things, and even has a book dedicated to collecting a list of dead things. However, her mother doesn’t cope as well with her husband’s death, that, unable to take it anymore abandons Millie in a department store.
Karl the Typist lost his wife Edie several years ago, and also lost his sense of purpose. To give himself something to do, he frequents a cafe in the same department store that Millie is abandoned in. He’s somewhat of an oddity, especially as he can’t keep his fingers still – a habit from being a typist his entire working life.
Millie and Karl become friends, with Karl becoming a pseudo-parent to Millie. Karl stays overnight in the department store with Millie, but is soon caught by security. While Millie escapes home, Karl is detained by an oddball cast of department store staff. Using their distractions to his advantage, he escapes the store and takes a mannequin with him too, who he has christened ‘Manny’.
Agatha Pantha is a widow who has retreated into her home and become a recluse. She has avoided visitors since her late husband’s funeral and has made a habit of scaring away any person who tries to help or befriend her. However, one person who isn’t fazed by Agatha’s unsociable behaviour is Millie, who seems to understand where her pain comes from.
Millie comes into Agatha Pantha’s life when Millie returns home after her escape from the department store, only to find a copy of her mother’s travel itinerary which she doesn’t understand, so she asks Agatha to help her. To her own angst, Agatha decides to help this little girl who just won’t leave her alone.
Millie, Karl and Agatha soon begin what is the biggest journey of their lives – they think they’re on their way to Millie’s mum in Melbourne, but what they discover is what their lives have been missing this whole time: each other.
As they travel from Perth, to Kalgoorlie and to the middle of the outback, they meet a number of strangers, each contributing something to Millie, Karl and Agatha’s journey. Together, they learn lessons in acceptance, grieving, friendship, forgiveness and how to re-enter the world of the living.
I love this book, however I’d only recommend it to people who have a dry, somewhat strange sense of humour and a macabre outlook on life. People who are either too positive, or take life too seriously wouldn’t understand this book or the characters in it.
In saying that, anyone who’s loved and lost will relate to this book, especially more so if they’ve lost, or have been lost, and never really quite found their way out again. It speaks to our innermost fears, and our unspoken desires and answers all the timeless question: how do we learn to move on with our lives when we have nothing more to live for?
Millie, Karl and Agatha are the quintessential Australian characters you’ll find in any neighbourhood and Brooke Davis does an amazing job of building their stories and relationships to explore the themes of death, love and second-chances. They’re supported by equally kooky characters who at first don’t seem real, but give it a while and soon you’ll find yourself saying, ‘oh yes, that character reminds me of so and so!’.
If you’ve recently lost someone, whether through death, a break-up or just simply losing touch over time, this is the book that will restore your faith in humanity and the universe.
*blogger confession: I started this post about three months ago, and have been caught up in work and study so it’s taken a while to finish and publish this! That’s why this book review seems shorter and concise than my previous ones.