Sunday, October 15, 2017

The Luster of Lost Things

Title:  The Luster of Lost Things
Author:  Sophie Chen Keller
Publication Information:  G.P. Putnam's Sons. 2017. 320 pages.
ISBN:  0735210780 / 978-0735210783

Book Source:  I received this book as a publisher's galley through NetGalley free of cost in exchange for an honest review.

Opening Sentence:  "Somewhere in the Fourteenth Street subway station there is a statue of a little bronze man who waits for a train that never comes."

Favorite Quote:  "Out there might be dark places to be afraid of and lonely islands to escape from and terrifying heights to fall down, but what also awaits are more places to see and people to know and friends to make and experiences to share, and what could be more worth the pain than to open up and let yourself be a part of a sweeping story."

Walter Lavender Jr is an unusual young man. His father, a pilot, has been lost. His mother has build a life for Walter. She runs a bakery, but not just any bakery. This bakery is sprinkled with its own magic, created by a magical book that Walter Lavender Sr. left behind. The legend of the book is a magical story all its own. In the midst of this, Walter Lavender Jr. is loved and cared for by his mother, the workers in the bakery, his giant dog Milton, and his neighborhood.

Walter has a knack for finding things - lost things. Sadly, a speech impediment leaves him unable to articulate his thoughts in ordinary conversations. He finds his voice in his quests for lost things, but his inability to communicate in day-to-day interactions leaves him the subject of ridicule and bullying.

The book has this perfectly charming beginning setup. A caring neighborhood where people seem to know each other and care for each other. A magical book and a magical bakery. A precocious young main character.

Of course, drama comes to town in the shape of a new landlord who threatens the bakery and the neighborhood. On top of that, the Lavender's magical book goes missing. Therein lies the plot of the book. Walter can find things; he now just needs to do it for himself. This sets him on a quest around the city and through the paths of a wide assortment of characters. The book winds its way to a predictable ending.

Walter is a likable character, and as a adult, I want to make this child's path easier. The idea of a caring neighborhood and a magical bakery, of course, holds appeal. However, the book slows downs and begins to drag as Walter winds him way around the city in his search. Too many characters and too much of the same thing lead away from the charming, cozy beginning.

The publicity for the book calls to the readers of The Curious Incident of the Dog at Night and A Man Called Ove. This book reminds me more of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer. Both books are about young boys dealing with the loss of their fathers. Both books are set in New York City. Both are about a quest to find something literal - a lock that fits a key and a lost magical book. In the quest to find the missing item, both stories are about a cast of characters who meet the young boys and who leave them with a lesson and a step forward. In both stories, the adult characters clearly take a back seat to the boys. Both stories are ultimately about these boys finding a way through their grief with the innocence of childhood.

One main difference is the use of magic realism in this book; the magical book is the missing item which serves only to accentuate a child's imagination. The fact that it is magical is not essential to the story. This book for me creates a more lasting impression because of the charm and warmth of the beginning, and maybe things are just better with a belief in a little magic.

Please share your thoughts and leave a comment. I would love to "talk" to you.

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