The socks we say the dryer ate, coins forgotten in the couch cushions, an engagement ring, a home, family, even a life. What if all the things we lose, the mundane and the important, were waiting to be returned? What would we do if we found ourselves in the place that they end up? Such is the inspiration for The Lost, Sarah Beth Durst’s imaginative first novel for adults.

Her disillusioned protagonist Lauren Chase is running from the reality of her mother’s cancer diagnosis. Driving off into the desert one day instead of to work, Lauren gets caught up in a freak dust storm and summarily deposited in the town of Lost. Here, foreclosed or abandoned homes of various styles sit side by side; the last pieces of pie are served at a celestial-themed diner; and stray dogs and kids roam about. Like the town’s other inhabitants, Lauren is unable to leave until she discovers what she has lost. For that, she needs the help of the enigmatic Missing Man, who has inexplicably disappeared—a fact that many of the town’s residents blame on Lauren. Claire, a young girl who carries both a teddy bear and a knife, befriends Lauren and convinces Peter, a brooding young man known as the Finder, to help her. The three form a family of need.

Durst, the author of several YA novels, knows how to captivate readers. As the first in a planned trilogy, more questions are left unanswered than resolved in The Lost, though the author unfolds her fast-moving tale in a beguiling way. The world Durst has envisioned is often disturbing and bizarre, but at times surprises with its beauty and poignancy.

 

This article was originally published in the June 2014 issue of BookPage. Download the entire issue for the Kindle or Nook.

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