Searching through the past in ‘Lost’
How many times has this happened: you’re out somewhere, and you see someone you haven’t seen in a long time. You hurry over to renew your friendship, but your friend seems aloof and confused. After a minute or two, you realize that the person you thought was your friend was someone else with an uncanny resemblance.You almost never mean for people to disappear from your life, but they do, and in the new novel “How to Be Lost” by Amanda Eyre Ward (c.2004, MacAdam / Cage) a disappearance tears a family apart.Caroline Winters lives in New Orleans and works as a cocktail waitress at a once-elegant-now-seedy lounge. Caroline’s family mother, Isabelle; sister, Madeline; and Madeline’s husband all live far away in New York, which is fine with Caroline, since she really doesn’t want to much spend time with them anyhow.Years ago, when growing up, Caroline was the responsible oldest daughter of an alcoholic father and a mother who always wondered what might’ve happened had she married her first love instead of a man who looked for the bottom of a bottle every night. The girls learned early to completely rely on one another, so, on the day they decided to run away, fourteen-year-old Caroline packed their bags, stole their mother’s car and drove to pick up Madeline and precocious five-year-old Ellie.But Ellie wasn’t where she was supposed to be. Ellie was gone vanished and so was the last shred of “family” that the family ever had.This is Christmas, though, fifteen years after Ellie’s disappearance. Isabelle wants Caroline to come home for the annual Christmas Party, which Caroline thinks is a tradition that needs to die. Every year, Isabelle hires a bartender and makes a vibrant yellow cheese ball that nobody eats. The liquor flows freely, the guests get tipsy, and a good time is had by no one, really. Especially not Caroline.After the party, Madeline tells Caroline that they need to finally declare Ellie officially dead, but their mother can’t bear it. Ever hopeful, Isabelle has spotted a picture in People magazine. The girl in the background looks just like Ellie.When Caroline loses an important link to her past, she decides to find her lost sister. Through New Mexico, Colorado, and into Montana, Caroline travels with a picture and her mother’s dream, wondering what will happen if she finds Ellie. Worse yet what if Ellie wants to stay lost?When I started the first page of “How to Be Lost”, I knew I was in for something very different. Caroline Winters is funny and smart, vulnerable but with armor, wanting to be alone yet fearing it. The best parts of this book, however, are the flashbacks and asides: Caroline’s memories, Isabelle’s story-within-a-story, and the mysterious letters written by a stranger.”How to Be Lost” is one of those rare books that will keep you awake, unwilling to put it down, wanting to see what happens at the end. Pick up a copy and get lost in it. VT
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