Most of the reading I’ve done lately has been background and preparation for a two-week vacation to Texas, so aside from that, I have just one book to recommend from my April reading.
The Luster of Lost Things by Sophie Chen Keller is a novel about a 12-year-old boy, Walter Lavender, Jr. who knows about lost things. His father, a pilot, went missing when his plane disappeared mid-flight shortly before Walter was born. Walter is still waiting for his Dad to return home.
Walter’s life at school is lonely because he has a physical disorder that makes it difficult for him to talk. But his home life compensates — his mother creates a warm and comforting community centered around her dessert shop, The Lavenders. After she kindly invites a stranger to wait out a storm in the shop, she is gifted with a book of several paintings from that stranger. The book seems to suffuse the shop with magical reverberations of kindness and belonging.
Although Walter cannot communicate well, he has a special gift for helping people find lost things. He says, “I keep finding because it is a way for me to be part of something bigger, even if it is only for a while.” He learns a lot about humanity during his searches: “. . . everyone loses things . . . In the things they look for, parts of people turn clear as glass and you can see into them and what they are made of and how they live.” He says, “With just a few phrases, two or three questions, I will know enough to understand someone, because people only bother looking for things that matter.”
Walter knows his gift is tied to the disappearance of his father. “. . .[T]he more you persist in searching, the more you are likely to stumble across something unexpected. In looking for someone else’s lost thing, I am also looking for mine — some sign that will lead me to Walter Lavender, Sr., and tell me what happened to him.”
When the shop’s landlord threatens to close the shop, the security of Walter’s and his mother’s lives starts to dissolve. And then the magical book goes missing. Walter sets out to find the book and save his mother’s shop. This search takes him across New York in a series of adventures and encounters from which Walter learns even more about himself and what matters in life.
In my public library, this book is catalogued as adult fiction, even though it is about a 12-year-old boy. I thoroughly enjoyed it.