Penguin sent me a complimentary copy of the book, however the opinions are my own.
Shortly after her father dies, seven-year-old Millie is unceremoniously abandoned by her mother in a department store. 82-year-old Agatha Pantha, who lives across the street from Millie, hasn’t left her house since her husband died seven years earlier. And widower Karl the Touch Typist, 87, is on the lam from a nursing home. Together the unlikely trio set out on a trip across Western Australia to find Millie’s mother.
I found the beginning of the book a bit difficult, mainly because I’d rather think about just about anything other than death and Millie — the focus of the opening pages — is fascinated by it. She keeps a “Book of Dead Things”, holds funerals for insects, and asks the questions any curious kid her age might ask (i.e. what happens to dead bodies after they die?) — all of which made me shift uneasily in my seat. Her father dies and her mother abandons her and it’s almost too much to bear. And yet somehow it isn’t. There is a lightness and humour in Davis’ writing that keeps the tissues at bay. The introduction of Millie’s two quirky chaperones is reassuring (young Millie is not alone!) and shifts the story’s emphasis from a tale of characters at the mercy of an often unforgiving world to a story of unlikely heroes unwilling to accept the hand they have been dealt. They’re off on an adventure!
Travelling on foot, bus, train and car with a department-store mannequin in tow, you can’t help but root for the characters as they out-run and out-fox the authorities (unlikely as it may be). The road trip sees Karl transform from a man living in his memories to a man living in the present, and (cantankerous, shouty) Agatha opens her heart to possibilities long forgotten. And yet we never forget Millie’s loss, as she leaves signs saying “IN HERE MUM” on the windows and doors of everywhere they go. Grief is a through-line but hope is too and both feel true.
Heavy with sadness but punctuated with humour, Lost & Found is a lyrical and ultimately uplifting tale of loss, love and the resilience of those left behind.