Title: What Was Lost
Author: Catherine O’Flynn
Genre: Literary Fiction, Mystery
Rating: 4 out of 5
From the back cover:
In the 1980s, Kate Meaney—“Top Secret” notebook and toy monkey in tow—is hard at work as a junior detective. Busy trailing “suspects” and carefully observing everything around her at the newly opened Green Oaks shopping mall, she forms an unlikely friendship with Adrian, the son of a local shopkeeper. But when this curious, independent-spirited young girl disappears, Adrian falls under suspicion and is hounded out of his home by the press.
Then, in 2003, Adrian’s sister Lisa—stuck in a dead-end relationship—is working as a manager at Your Music, a discount record store. Every day she tears her hair out at the outrageous behavior of her customers and colleagues. But along with a security guard, Kurt, she becomes entranced by the little girl glimpsed on the mall’s surveillance cameras. As their after-hours friendship intensifies, Lisa and Kurt investigate how these sightings might be connected to the unsettling history of Green Oaks itself. Written with warmth and wit, What Was Lost is a haunting debut from an incredible new talent.
What Was Lost was a confusing novel to read, in that it tried to be so many things at once. The summary makes it sound like a mystery; in some ways it is, but it isn’t at the same time. The novel is about the disappearance of a little girl, but it is much more about the impact of her disappearance, rather than what happened to her. I was expecting much more of a mystery, so I wasn’t really sure what to make of this novel while I was reading it.
However, more than a mystery, What Was Lost is a work of literary fiction. O’Flynn’s writing is very fluid and tells the story very well. Through her prose, she conveys incredibly stark emotions that are normally difficult to communicate to the reader. For example, much of What Was Lost focuses on the concept of loneliness. All of the main characters are alone in their own ways. O’Flynn manages to show the reader (rather than tell them) the complete desolation that exists within loneliness.
What Was Lost’s ambiguity makes it a difficult novel to read. While the transition from Kate’s voice to the present day is stark and clear, it’s difficult to tell what is going on. If I hadn’t been familiar with the description on the back of the book, I would have been completely confused.
What Was Lost is a well-written book that is many different things. This is one that will appeal to a lot of readers. If you’re a fan with literary fiction with a twist, you will probably enjoy this book!