- Associated Press - Tuesday, February 3, 2015

“Lost & Found” (Dutton), by Brooke Davis

Brooke Davis’ debut novel, “Lost & Found,” begins with 7-year-old Millie Bird, who has recently lost her father, being abandoned by her grieving mother in a department store. Millie befriends Karl the Touch Typist, a widower on the lam from his nursing home, and Agatha Pantha, an 82-year-old widow who hasn’t spoken to anyone in the seven years since her husband’s death, and the three set off to find Millie’s mother.

The story is told through these three voices in alternating sections, which at times serves to strengthen the characters’ connection and at others makes the narrative feel choppy and disjointed. No sooner are we into one character’s head than Davis moves to a different voice, and perhaps this is meant to lend support to the novel’s themes of loss and separation.

Davis initially wrote “Lost & Found” as part of her Ph.D. at Curtin University in Australia, and in the acknowledgements she thanks her supervisors who advised her to “cut the cute” from the story. It was advice well heeded; there are many places in “Lost & Found” that could easily have turned all too twee, the sort of story you’d expect Hollywood to adapt into a faux-indie film with a soundtrack by young bearded men. And indeed, there are times where “Lost & Found” feels a bit too much, particularly with Agatha, who seems weighed down by many eccentricities.

Though the characters may behave in ways that stretch credulity, however, the emotion threaded through Davis’ story of loss and grief and hope is real. Davis’ writing is strongest with Millie, in the way she makes sense of her father’s death and the way she weighs that loss against her mother’s actions. It is Millie who kept me reading.

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