Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr
Fans of Zarr’s first book, Story of a Girl, will not be disappointed in this title, her third Young Adult novel. Samara, called Sam, is the daughter of Pineview’s most popular pastor. Unfortunately, Paster Charlie, as he’s known by everyone, seems to care more about his congregation than his family. Between writing his Sunday sermon, preparing the church for Sunday services, resting up from Sunday services and ministering to his congregants, Sam figures he one one day available for his family–Tuesdays. She wishes he would give her and her mother half the time and attention he gives the Pineview Community Church.
Probably at least partly due to her husband’s preoccupation with his “calling,” Sam’s mom has been a secret drinker for years. “The thing about Mom’s drinking is that she’s done it her whole adult life and ninety-five percent of the time it was never a problem problem. Then all of a sudden and not that long ago, it went to more like eighty-seven percent. Soon after that, it dipped down to maybe sixty-two.” She’s now in a “court suggested” rehabilitation facility after being arrested while driving drunk. The family has basically fallen apart with Sam’s mom at the New Beginnings Recovery Center. Now there are piles of her old notes and phone messages on the kitchen counter, unopened bills Charlie hasn’t even noticed, and no food in the refrigerator. Even her best friend Vanessa can’t get Sam to return her phone calls. And Sam’s tired of even her closest friends going to parties they “don’t mention” to her because she’s Pastor Charlie’s kid. To top everything off, her dad hasn’t even officially told the congregation what’s going on with his wife, and people are starting to find out on their own. If he could just be honest with everyone, Sam could stop feeling like she’s living a lie, like she has the perfect family and her mom is “just under the weather.”
Is it any surprise that Sam is also having a “crisis of faith”–she’s just not sure if God exists anymore even though she’s been grounded in her religion her whole life. After one of the girls from the church youth group disappears in broad daylight, Sam finds her faith even weaker than before. “This feeling that’s been building, this doubt, since way before my mom’s accident, has gotten bigger than me.”
I would rate this book a 9 out of 10. It is perfect for fans of Sara Zarr’s other books, Sarah Dessen fans, and anyone who wants a heartfelt family story with a satisfying ending.