The minute I began reading Australian author Brooke Davis’ novel, I knew what all the fuss was about. Lost & Found sparked bidding wars at this year’s London Book Fair, and the rights were sold to twenty-five countries around the world before the book was even published. Not bad for a debut.
This heart-warming, quirky novel centres around three individuals all struggling to make sense of life following the death of a loved one. Millie is 7 and, not only has her father died, but now her mother has abandoned her. While waiting for her return, Mille meets Karl the Touch Typist, an 87-year old nursing home escapee who is mourning the loss of his beloved Evie. Karl agrees to help Millie in her quest to find her mum. 82-year old Agatha Pantha, who has not left her house in the seven years following her husband’s passing, is also recruited for the mission.
It is hard to recall the last time I have encountered three such eccentric characters on the same pages, and they absolutely work and all are equally endearing. Millie exudes the innocence of a child her age, and her naïve understanding and awareness of her fate makes her different from other children, an outsider. But then other children haven’t had her unfortunate experiences. Karl and Agatha, in their golden years, are at a loss as to how to move forward from death. These are two wonderfully contrasting characters, both with delightful peculiarities. While society may have brushed them aside, Millie, Karl the Touch Typist and Agatha Pantha understand each other, oddities and all, without question, and herein lies the book’s charm.
As the narrative shifts between the three characters, allowing the reader to become immersed in each of their thoughts, Davis has convincingly portrayed their perspectives. With sensitivity, humour, and a store mannequin named Manny, she also manages to capture a piece of Australia, the dusty vastness of it the perfect setting for this tale of loss and searching. My one critique might have been that the ending was incredibly abrupt, and felt like it was missing a chapter, but then, in its way this reflects the very theme of Lost & Found.
Davis’ poignant tale of searching – and finding – was inspired by her own loss: of her mother, very suddenly, seven years ago. I am certain this is why there is so much heart within her novel’s pages. As Millie, Karl the Touch Typist and Agatha Pantha journey across Australia, you will laugh, you may cry, and maybe, just maybe, like them you will find life. If you enjoyed Perfect, by Rachel Joyce, or The Rosie Project, by Graeme Simsion, or if you just enjoy an unusual, unexpected and touching tale, then Lost & Found is for you.