marginalia || What Was Lost, by Catherine O’Flynn

A quick sharing of my impressions on What Was Lost, by Catherine O’Flynn—and I suppose this in itself is reflective of how the reading experience was for me. So. The blurb, because you know how I just suck at summaries:

In the 1980s, Kate Meaney—“Top Secret” notebook and toy monkey in tow—is hard at work as a junior detective. Busy trailing “suspects” and carefully observing everything around her at the newly opened Green Oaks shopping mall, she forms an unlikely friendship with Adrian, the son of a local shopkeeper. But when this curious, independent-spirited young girl disappears, Adrian falls under suspicion and is hounded out of his home by the press.

Then, in 2003, Adrian’s sister Lisa—stuck in a dead-end relationship—is working as a manager at Your Music, a discount record store. Every day she tears her hair out at the outrageous behavior of her customers and colleagues. But along with a security guard, Kurt, she becomes entranced by the little girl glimpsed on the mall’s surveillance cameras. As their after-hours friendship intensifies, Lisa and Kurt investigate how these sightings might be connected to the unsettling history of Green Oaks itself. Written with warmth and wit, What Was Lost is a haunting debut from an incredible new talent.

[1] It was an okay read, a pleasant enough read. I don’t know if this book would stay with me long after I read it. It’s been two days, and it’s still gah and bah and wah-ever. A good book to kill time with in the hospital. It wasn’t engrossing, but it served its purpose.

[2] There seemed to be a whole lot of unnecessary tragedy in this novel. A LOT. The entire plot’s basically founded on this. And, ironically, a lot of unearned sentimentality. Like that scene where Lisa decides to help Kurt look for this girl caught on camera:

“You should try and find her,” she said. “Maybe she’s run away from home….” She paused for a moment and thought about her brother. She found herself saying, “I’ll help you if you like. She might be less scared of a woman. We could find her and talk to her. This is a horrible place to be in by yourself.”

He looked at her. “Why do you want to help me?”

Lisa wasn’t sure what to say and so told the truth. “Because I’ve been lost here for years—maybe you have too. But we could rescue her.”

Hello. I swear, I put the book down, torn between grimacing and laughing out loud.

[3] And there were too much extraneous details that I’m sure lent to the credibility of the characters, but I really didn’t care for it—pretty easy to skip. A testament to how extraneous those cluttering details were: those things that the blurb was talking about? Didn’t happen until page 124. And this is a 240-page book. It’s not so much a problem with the blurb—I put the blame on the plotting.

I don’t know. Maybe lots of other people enjoyed it. It’s got a smattering of medals and distinctions, short-listed and long-listed for this and that, winner of that thing. But I just didn’t enjoy it—and I don’t think the reading conditions were entirely to blame. Who knows if this would change with a new reading. Then again, I don’t think I would read this again. Sigh. But I am thankful that, well, it kept me company for those couple of hours. Now I’m confused. Bah.


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