LOST by Alice Lichtenstein

Book Quote:

“I see that I’m going down,” Susan said. “Christopher and I are going down. No hope. Only we can go down with fear and anger, or we can go down with love. I want to go down with love. But I don’t know how.”

Book Review:

Review by Bonnie Brody (MAR 10, 2010)

Lost, by Alice Lichtenstein, is a beautiful, literary and profoundly poetic novel. It will appeal to anyone who has ever known or loved a person with Alzheimer’s or has lost someone they loved. The descriptions of loss and grief are profound and the book keeps on getting better with each page.

The novel is told from the viewpoint of three people, each with a different story, whose lives become interconnected. The chapters are in the voices of different characters – Corey, Jeff, and Susan.

Corey is an eleven-year-old boy who has been legally acquitted of setting a fire that destroyed his home and killed his older brother. Corey is fascinated with fires and during a game that he played with his brother, using cigarette lighters, his house burned down. It is difficult to find a placement for Corey in the foster system because of his history of fire starting. Currently, he is living with his grandparents but they are on the verge of kicking him out. Corey’s grandmother can’t sleep with Corey in the house because she is afraid of him. Corey has been mute since the fire and can not explain himself to others.

Susan, 62 years old, is living with her husband of four decades, Christopher. Christopher is 72 years old and has rapidly progressing Alzheimer’s disease. One morning, Susan goes for a short walk and when she returns, Christopher is gone, lost. She searches for him unsuccessfully so calls in the search and rescue team.

Jeff Herdman, 40 years old, is the liaison between Susan and the searchers. He is a trained EMT who had served in Vietnam. Despite having Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, he functions well. He is helpful to Susan and encourages her to be hopeful. He is in the midst of his own marital crisis. His wife, Leeanne, 20 years his junior has left him for a younger man. During the day Jeff works as a caseworker for disturbed teenagers, primarily fire starters such as Corey, who is one of his clients.

The novel describes the pre-Alzheimer’s relationship of Susan and Christopher. Their love is a deep one that has survived Christopher’s disease. Susan cares for him gently and lovingly despite knowing that the Christopher she’s loved is long gone. The book shows us the many ways that these two people have lived and loved for decades. Their strength is in the commitment and nourishment of one another. Both of them suffer profound grief at their losses. Susan worked as a microbiologist, specializing in newts and salamanders. Interestingly, they have regenerative brains which Susan wishes she could find a way to replicate in humans. Christopher worked as an architect. As his Alzheimer’s worsened, Susan moved to another town because she felt shunned by their old friends who no longer came around or invited them out. Being around Christopher was too difficult for them.

Jeff’s marriage to Leeanne is in a shambles. Leeanne is childlike in her emotional immaturity and is currently having an affair for which she apparently feels no guilt. During the search and rescue for Christopher, Leeanne has a DUI and is jailed. It is obvious that she intends to leave Jeff.

Corey stumbles across Christopher lying dead in the woods but is too frightened to report this. He is fearful that he will be blamed for this death, too. When his grandparents tell him he is going to be kicked out of their home, he runs away, yet another victim for the search and rescue team.

Susan suspects from the beginning that Christopher is dead. As Jeff says to her, “In the rescue business there is rescue and there is recovery, which is ironic, Jeff thinks, because it’s the recovery no one ever really recovers from.” The book allows us to see inside the current and past histories of Jeff, Susan and Corey. We are privy to their rich emotional lives. By the time the book is finished, their relationships to one another have evolved and become much deeper and intense.

This is a book to read slowly, cherishing the beauty of the language. Lichtenstein writes with the soul of a poet. Her language is expressive, elegiac, and sensitive. We get to know the depth of the characters and are one with them, sharing their pain, hopes, and memories. The poignancy of the love and loss is beautifully described. With each page, the reader becomes more involved with the characters. By the end of the book, we are one with them.

AMAZON READER RATING: stars-5-0from 6 readers
PUBLISHER: Scribner (March 9, 2010)
REVIEWER: Bonnie Brody
AUTHOR WEBSITE: Alice Lichtenstein
EXTRAS: Reading Guide and Excerpt
MORE ON MOSTLYFICTION: Another author that deals with the themes in this book:

Moral Hazards by Kate Jennings


March 10, 2010 · Judi Clark · No Comments
Tags: , ,  · Posted in: 2010 Favorites, Contemporary, Family Matters, NE & New York, Reading Guide

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