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July 15, 2024

Review in Haiku: How To Be Lost

By Katrina Stonoff

Ellie disappears.
After 15 years, her mom
and sisters still search.

How to Be Lost, by Amanda Eyre Ward, is a fascinating study in relationships. Three sisters struggle to survive a dysfunctional family, but when the youngest, 5-year-old Ellie, disappears, the family fractures.

Fifteen years later, Father has killed himself with alcohol, and Mother fights truth with a brittle smile and daydreams of her glory days. Madeline acts happy with her Wall Street husband. And protagonist Caroline fills her days with alcohol, strange men (when she can get them), and cocktail waitressing in a place as rundown as she is.

Determined not to accept Ellie's death, Mother scours the faces in published photographs, and when she finds her missing daughter in People magazine, she sends Caroline on the latest wild goose chase.

How to Be Lost is a quick and satisfying read. It's short, and the writing is zippy.

The structure is a bit odd: traditional first-person scenes are interspersed with italicized flashback scenes (page after page of italics tires my eyes) and with letters written by a stranger that appears to be unrelated to the central plot. But it worked.

I was a bit off by the naïf letter writer: she's just too precious for my taste. And I groaned over the "dream," where Caroline conveniently relives an experience that happened to her mother many years before she was even born.

In fact, the scenes I liked best were Caroline in New Orleans, the city she ran to in order to find anonymity, and those weren't related to her missing sister at all.

Still, I turned the pages one after another without stopping, and when you're looking for a book to simply enjoy, there's no higher compliment.

Article © Katrina Stonoff. All rights reserved.
Published on 2007-11-26
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