On Children Lost and Found – and Overlooked and Forgotten
(Full disclosure: I received a free electronic ARC for review through NetGalley. Trigger warning for rape.)
Chances are, you have seen her. The photo of blond-haired, gap-toothed, polka-dot-dressed, teddy bear–cradling Laurel Logan has surely been printed in almost every newspaper in the world (probably even the Uzbekistan Times, now that I think about it). […]
I was also in the original photo: four years old, cute in the way that all four-year-olds are, but nothing special. Not like her. Frizzy brown hair, beady little eyes, hand-me-down clothes. I was playing in a sandbox in the background, slightly out of focus. That’s how it’s been my whole life: in the background, slightly out of focus. You hardly ever see that version of the photo—the one where I haven’t been cropped out.
I try to put myself in her shoes. Coming back to your family after all that time. You’d want things to be the same as when you left, wouldn’t you? But a lot can change in thirteen years. Your mother can wither away to nothingness, and your dad can get together with a lovely Frenchman, and your little sister can stop building sand castles and start building a wall around herself instead.
For as long as she can remember, seventeen-year-old Faith Logan has lived in her older sister’s shadow. When they were younger, Laurel was everything Faith was not: friendly, outgoing, and beautiful. Whereas Faith inherited their parents’ plain Jane, mousey looks – complete with frizzy brown hair and beady eyes – the adopted Laurel practically shined with her golden blonde hair and bright blue eyes. Laurel was the leader and Faith, her mostly-content follower. That is, until the day that Laurel was kidnapped from their front yard, lured away by a stranger promising ice cream cones.
In the intervening thirteen years, Laurel has overshadowed Faith in a much more tragic and morbid way. Their mother Olivia suffers from chronic depression, a melancholy broken only by the single-minded determination to find her missing daughter. Father John is more or less absent from his remaining daughter’s life; his new boyfriend Michel seems to do a better job of parenting Faith than the two combined. Unwilling to be perpetually cast as “Little Laurel Logan’s” sad and less interesting younger sister, Faith avoids publicity as assiduously as Olivia courts it: both to fund the never ending search for Laurel, and to keep her case alive in the public’s mind. Faith can count her friends on one hand, as too many of her peers seem to want to get close to her so they can be nearer tragedy. Rubberneckers and paparazzi vultures: these are the creatures she’s built up armor against.
When Laurel finally turns up – improbably blindfolded and left on the doorstep of the family’s old house on Stanley Street by her captor – the Logans’ lives are upended yet again…and not always for the good. Olivia and John are overjoyed to have their girl back home, but Faith’s feelings are a little more ambivalent. While this is understandable even in the best case scenario, Faith can’t shake the feeling that something isn’t quite right.
Laurel seems to be the real deal: she looks a lot like the age progression photos of Laurel that have been airing in the media, off and on for years. She turns up with Barnaby, her beloved – and heavily customized – stuffed bear, which went missing with her. She seemingly knows everything about the Logans and their too-short time together. She even has a scar on her cheek, a mere scab the day Laurel vanished. Yet she acts strangely: Faith catches her shoplifting makeup, snooping through her room, and cornering her boyfriend Thomas in dark, private places. Perhaps most damningly, she goes into full-on panic mode every time the police attempt to swab her cheek for a DNA sample.
Is this young woman the missing puzzle piece to their family that the Logans have been searching for – or an imposter? And, if so, do Faith’s parents even want to hear the truth – or will they give anything to have their daughter back?
The Lost and the Found isn’t super suspenseful, but it’s still pretty engrossing. If you’ve ever seen that one episode of Law & Order: SVU – or, heck, paid very much attention to the synopsis – you can pretty much guess at the WHO and the WHAT. The HOW and WHY remain a mystery up until the final few chapters, which are pretty intense; but in the lead-up my attention was diverted by the narrator, Faith Logan. For me, the real draw of the story is Faith’s account: a psychological portrait of a young girl (and then woman) floundering in the wake of her older sister’s abduction (and likely murder).
The family’s lives pretty much revolve around the daughter who was taken, leaving precious little for the girl who remains. Nor can she find the attention and care she craves in the outside world, for it too is preoccupied with the sensational and tragic. Faith must navigate a landscape populated by hangers-on and rubberneckers; well-meaning but insensitive strangers; true crime fanatics; and the media vultures who feed on the carnage of their wrecked lives. And the imbalance doesn’t end with Laurel’s reappearance, but rather shifts; now Faith is expected to subvert her own thoughts and desires for Laurel, because of everything she’s been through. Suddenly Faith finds herself acting very much unlike herself, being pressured into appearing on talk shows and even signing a deal to pen a book with the whole family. As always, everything is about Laurel. Rinse, repeat.
Clark credits “media coverage surrounding missing children” as her inspiration for The Lost and the Found, and it shows. The Logans’ chief tormentor in the media is Jeanette Hayes, who criticized the amount of attention their case received. (Think of her as the anti-Nancy Grace.) She even wrote a book about it; called The Forgotten Children, it profiles some of the other missing children – many of them poor, black, and/or from less-than-picture-perfect families – who might have benefited from the resources devoted to Laurel. Young Faith casts her as the villain, even as she sneaks into the library stacks to read Hayes’s book. Yet adult Faith actually concedes her point – and tries to right at least one of the wrongs when given the chance. The “excerpt” from this fictional exposé is a rather nice touch.
The only unbelievable thing? John and the macaroons. WHAT KIND OF MONSTER HATES MACAROONS!?! They are simply delightful. I mean, salted caramel? Come the fuck on! I’m salivating just thinking about it.
Comments (May contain spoilers!)
Diversity: Faith and Laurel Logan’s father John is bisexual. Six years after Laurel was kidnapped, John and Olivia got divorced. John is now in a long-term relationship with a Frenchman named Michel, who Faith adores. Some media outlets have used this against him, trying to paint John as a pervert (“GAY SEX ROMP!”) who “tricked” Olivia into marrying him because he wanted children. At first, they were unable to conceive, so they adopted Laurel. Two years later their “miracle baby” Faith came along.
Laurel and Sadie were kidnapped and held for a decade+ by a man named Smith, who physically, emotionally, and sexually abused them. Sadie’s mother died of an overdose while she was missing. Olivia suffers from chronic depression in the wake of her daughter’s disappearance.
Animal-friendly elements: n/a