Faith is an average teenage girl struggling with typical teenage problems about self image, concerns about her popularity and the emotional complexity of having just lost her virginity. But these issues are overshadowed because her family has been caught in an extraordinary situation all of their lives. When Faith was four years old, her slightly older sister Laurel was kidnapped. Since then her family has been embroiled in a campaign to find her and bring her back. Because Laurel was pretty, blonde, white and from a middle class family her case received a lot of media attention which has had good and bad repercussions for Faith’s family. Now, at this crucial point in Faith’s teenage development, her sister Laurel suddenly returns. “The Lost and the Found” is the story this dramatic reconfiguration of a family told from Faith’s point of view.
Clarke is excellent at capturing the small intimacies of family life. The reader feels alternating sensations of comfort and claustrophobia that naturally occur in a household – especially during times of turmoil and strife. For instance, when Faith wants to be alone in her bed at one point she’s aware her mother is outside because she can hear her stepping over a stair that creaks. Faith is extremely conscious of the politics you need to play to maintain harmony within the family. After years of dealing with the press she also possesses a savvy knowingness about the difference between perception and reality. It’s endearing how Faith is still subject to her own contradictory feelings and emotions which she doesn’t understand. Quite often there is a disconnect between what she thinks and what she says. I also appreciated how Faith’s family is unique in that after her parents’ divorce her father struck up a long term relationship with another man. Rather than thinking of this as unusual, Faith finds this arrangement perfectly natural and makes efforts to ensure her father’s partner Michel is included in all aspects of family life.
The reintroduction of a family member after such a harrowing long period of absence is complicated. It makes for a highly captivating story with some twists which lead to a tense conclusion. This novel reminds me of Joyce Carol Oates’ novel “My Sister, My Love” for the way it captures the sibling’s point of view for a sister who has been abducted. But it also puts me in mind of Emma Donoghue’s novel “Room” for the way it poignantly captures the confusion and fallout from a child being held in captivity. “The Lost and the Found” works both as a thriller and an emotionally-engaging young adult novel about a dramatic situation. Faith’s narrative voice is engaging, amusingly ironic and extremely relatable. This is a thoroughly enjoyable novel.