Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr

After her mother enters rehab and a neighbor girl goes missing, a pastor’s daughter has a crisis of faith.

Once Was Lost is yet another strong, character-driven young adult novel by Sara Zarr. I really like how she can tackle dark, complex issues without letting that darkness shroud her writing. You’re never attracted to the dark side in one of her books–you’re always longing for the characters to find the light.

As a pastor’s daughter, Samara faces challenges her peers don’t. She has to deal with the congregation scrutinizing her clothing to see what their offering money bought. She has a dad who turns it on for the world then retreats into a shell at home. And her mother buckled under the pressure of being a perfect pastor’s wife by collapsing into alcoholism. When the 13-year-old daughter of one of the church families goes missing, seemingly abducted, Samara can’t handle all the wrongness in her world.

Samara’s crisis of faith is believable and realistic, and was particularly compelling to me because I know the youth group/church culture of which Zarr writes so well. And as an adult Christian with a strong interest in the present-day church in America, I couldn’t help but mentally pick on her father as just the sort of theologically ungrounded pastor who better wonder just how many sheep he might be leading astray. He made me very thankful for my own pastor, and his wife.

Many thanks to Little, Brown for the review copy.

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