Lost and Found could have been a typical finding-yourself novel, but it isn’t. Instead of indulging the angsty adolescent myth of white middle-class suburban oppression, Lost and Found revolves around people who suddenly find themselves thrust out of their comfortable lives and into a world that is much harsher than their experiences.
Millie Bird is seven years old, and collects Dead Things. Her Dad is a Dead Thing, but her mum is just missing. Millie’s on a mission to find her, because she’s tired of waiting and doesn’t much fancy getting taken away.
Karl the Touch Typist has had his autonomy taken away by his well-meaning daughter-in-law. He loved his wife until the day that she died, but when his son’s wife can no longer stand the possibility of finding him dead in his armchair, he gets shifted off to a nursing home without any further ado.
Agatha Pantha hasn’t left her home in years, not since her Rod died. Her days tick by in a strict repetition of routine, recording new wrinkles in her Age Book in the morning, shouting at the street after lunch, and writing angry letters before supper. But then one day a lonely little girl knocks on her door, and despite herself Agatha Pantha is intrigued.
Manny is just a mannequin. But with his new friends Millie Bird, Karl the Touch Typist, and Agatha Pantha, he’s about to embark on hue he greatest adventure of them all.
Maybe it’s just because I came straight off the back of reading Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, but I quite enjoyed Brooke Davis’ irreverent, down-to-earth view of ageing. Foer’s book is soaked in grief and regret, where Davis focuses her characters strongly on the exuberance of discovering the world beyond their borders rather than the grief of what they’ve lost. It’s a determined attitude of There is something fabulous beyond what I thought my life had in store that keeps the characters motivated, even little Millie Bird, who determinedly ignores the idea that she may have been abandoned and simply goes on with piecing her life back together.
One thing that I did struggle with was the level of ambiguity at the end. I loved the imagery of Manny taking the leap into the great unknown, of Millie Bird and Karl the Touch Typist and Agatha Pantha driving off together like a motley family-of-choice, but the questions became too much. What happens to Millie Bird? Do Agatha Pantha and Karl the Touch Typist get charged with kidnapping? Karl, at least, was in a pretty precarious position when they left the city, and surely his son is looking for him. What about Agatha Pantha? Does she ever stop comparing her new relationship with Karl to her old one with Ron?
Sometimes I feel like I’m demanding too much of my fiction – that I’m more interested in having all the ends tied up than in enjoying a good story. And Lost and Found was a good story. One of the best debut novels I’ve read in a while.