‘Lost & Found’ by Brooke Davis

Lost-and-found

Fiction – hardcover; Hutchinson; 320 pages; 2015. Review copy courtesy of the publisher.

Advance warning: Brooke Davis’s Lost & Found is going to be everywhere and you are going to have trouble avoiding it. And with good reason: this is a lovely feel-good novel. It’s quirky and sweet. It’s funny and joyful. It’s tender, poignant and heart-rending.

The book has already garnered lots of attention in the author’s native Australia, where it has been a best-seller since its release last year. And it sparked a bidder’s war at the London Book Fair, suggesting that the publishers knew a good thing when they saw it. It has since been sold into 25 countries and translated into 20 languages.

I cracked it open last weekend not quite knowing what to expect and then I went on a wonderful little journey with a trio of remarkable characters that were a pleasure to spend time with. I felt sad when I came to the end of the story, not because the ending was sad (it’s not) but because I had to say goodbye to seven-year-old Millie and her two older chums, octogenarians Agatha Pantha and Karl the Touch Typist.

Obsessed by death

When the book opens we meet Millie, who is obsessed with death and dead things. She’s recently lost her pet dog Rambo and then, more tragically, her father. By page six she’s “lost” her mother — in the literal sense, not the euphemistic sense — when she’s told to wait in a department store’s “Ginormous Womens Underwear” section, while her mum disappears into the distance — never to be seen again.

Millie will carry this around with her from now on, this picture of her mum getting smaller and smaller and smaller. It will reappear behind her eyes at different times throughout the course of her life.

An overnight stay ensues, hidden under the giant undies, and then she meets Karl the Touch Typist, an 87-year-old man who has escaped his nursing home and is living in the department store without anyone’s knowledge. The pair form an unlikely friendship.

Later, when Millie makes her way home alone, thwarting the best efforts of the police and social services, she meets her neighbour, 82-year-old Agatha Pantha, who hasn’t left her house since her husband died. Instead, she spends her time shouting insults through the window at passing strangers, earning a reputation as the neighbourhood’s “crazy lady”.

Together the trio set off to find Millie’s mum. What follows is an exciting — and somewhat manic — cross-country road trip involving buses, trains, a stolen car — and a department store mannequin.

A kooky cast of characters

What I loved most about this book is the characters. They really get under the skin and feel real: Agatha with her tendency to shout inappropriate Tourettes-like “sound bites” at all and sundry, Karl who constantly taps, taps, taps his fingers in memory of his life as a typist, and Millie with her dogged determination to avoid the police and find her mum.

While 80 years separates the oldest from the youngest, the three have one thing in common: they are all grieving: Millie for her dad (and her mum), Karl for his beloved wife Evie, and Agatha for her husband Ron. Interestingly, Brooke Davis wrote Lost & Found as a way to deal with her own grief after the sudden death of her mother seven years ago, and with this knowledge in mind, the reader can’t help but see Millie’s sense of abandonment as a reflection of the author’s.

It’s important to have your mum. Mums bring you jackets and turn on your electric blanket before you get into bed and always know what you want better than you do. And they sometimes let you sit on their lap and play with the rings on their fingers while Deal or No Deal is on.

But while the novel is about grief and death, it’s also about the joy of living and posits the idea that you’re never too old to do new things or start again. Yes, it is moving in places, but there’s an undercurrent of mischievous delight and black humour that stops it from being sentimental or emotionally manipulative. And Davis reigns in the “cutesy” factor so that it never succumbs to schmaltz, either.

Lost & Found  might be whimsical and comic, but to dismiss it as a “frothy” read would miss the point: this is a novel that has deeper philosophical meaning, one that will make you feel good about the possibilities that life offers when you grab it with both hands — no matter how young or old you might be.

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23 thoughts on “‘Lost & Found’ by Brooke Davis

      • It sounds like it would appeal to folks that enjoyed The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared, or A Man Called Ove and I am definitely one of those people. Next time I’m in a book store, I’m looking for it.

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        • I think you are spot-on. The blurb on the back of my arc says: “Lost & Found is like The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry — but with wellington boots. The Hundred-Year-Old-Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared — but with a sweet, funny little girl in tow. Where’d You Go, Bernadette — but with two octogenarians joining in the search. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time — but with an even bigger journey. The Rosie Project — but with even bigger heart.”

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  1. I have been seeing this around, and it sounds good. I love quirky characters and old people going on journeys. This type of book seems to be a little trend right now, but as long as the writers can continue to make it work, then I’m all for it!

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    • Ah yes, I remember you and your penchant for reads about “oldies”! 🙂

      And you’re right, there does seem to be a trend for this “genre” of books right now. I can’t say I normally seek these kinds of books out because I tend to like my fiction dark and disturbing, but this was a refreshing read. I think you will like it.

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  2. I really loved this book – one of my favourite reads from last year (and I didn’t like the 100 year old man but did like Harold Fry). The quirky characters are what have remained with me over the last 12 months.

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  3. I was so confused when I read published 2015… I could’ve sworn I read it last year and I did… in Australia! I absolutely loved it. It was one of my best reads of the year and I would highly recommend it. It could be set in any first world country – the story isn’t geographically tied. It is just such a great read and would appeal across generations. I would encourage everyone to get into this book!

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  5. Perfect review Kimbofo, of a lovely book. I totally agree that she keeps the schmaltz in check and that its heart and humour shine through. A professional Australian review panned it, saying in fact, and I quote, “I cannot be kind”. I cannot understand why she can’t be kind. I can understand someone not being able to go with the flow, but to be so harsh? I find THAT unkind!

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    • Thank you, Sue. I can’t believe someone would pan this book so unkindly. Admittedly, these happy sort of novels aren’t usually my cup of tea (I like my fiction on the dark side as I’m fascinated by morality, moral culpability etc) but I thoroughly enjoyed this one. I was actually asked to chair a Q&A session at Waterstone’s flagship store in Picadilly a few weeks ago but sadly, due to personal reasons, Brooke had to fly back to Australia and the event was cancelled. I was looking forward to meeting the author and sharing my enthusiasm for this book with the audience.

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      • Oh that’s a shame. And yes, I’m like you. I tend tone interested in and gravitate towards the dark side. I’m not one of those readers who shy away from unpleasant or sad stories. But a well written warm-hearted story can’t go astray, can it.

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