I feel a little bad about What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn. Here O’Flynn wrote this great novel and I had to go wreck it all by reading Elizabeth McCracken’s memoir and having my mind blown. Now all I want to do is talk about the McCracken book only I can’t yet find the words.
In my (slim) defense, the less you know about O’Flynn’s book the better. There’s a mystery at the heart of this novel and talking about it too much would give it away and I don’t want to wreck it for anyone.
What I will tell you is that this novel is populated with great characters. There’s Kate a ten-year-old girl who has decided she’s running her own detective agency. She spends a great deal of time doing surveillance at the Green Oaks mall with her friend, a stuffed monkey.
There’s Lisa, a 30something woman working at a record store in the same mall. Lisa’s suffered some great tragedies in her life and instead of coping with any of it, she floats through her life without really engaging with it. And then there’s Kurt, a male version of Lisa who works in mall security.
Plus, because O’Flynn is a good writer, the Green Oaks mall is a character itself. It has a life of its own, a part from the main characters, and is filled with shadowy corners and dark secrets. It’s really great, the way she characterizes the mall making it at times appear sinister and creepy.
How these three lost souls come together at the mall is literary magic. O’Flynn weaves their stories together in a way that is both suspenseful and moving ultimately giving us a beautiful novel about loneliness, longing, and trying so hard to make a meaningful connection with another person.
This all sounds like so much loosey goosey b.s., but really I don’t want to give away anything. Not a single drop of plot. In fact, I would advise you to get this book skip reading the back of the book and just dive right in. I promise it you will not regret. I have yet to talk to anyone who is on the fence about this book — everyone has enjoyed it tremendously.