Author: Ber Carroll
Once Lost is told by best friends Emma and Louise, who grew up neighbours in an inner-city suburb of Dublim. They are now in their mid-twenties and living half a world away from each other, facing their demons with their biggest ally so very far away. There are two very separate storylines linked only by the strength of the friendship between Emma and Louise, they each tell their story in alternating chapters.
Carroll has explored some tough topical issues and the far reaching effects they have; from addiction and mental illness to absent parents and teen pregnancy.
Louise was only eight years old when she returned home to find her mother gone without a trace, leaving her in the care of a stepfather who was under no obligation to stay. Fortunately for Louise, Emma was only next door and her mother took on the nurturing role but it wasn’t the same. At eight years old how can you understand your mother disappearing, that’s not what mothers do. Mothers nurture and protect and are always there.
Now an art conservator Louise is in a position for her work to take her all around the world and she uses her work to help her in her quest to discover what happened in the case of her missing mother. She actively seeks out positions in places she thinks her mother may have ended up and this is how we find her in Sydney embarking on a twelve month contract at the beginning of Once Lost.
The contract in Sydney is an interesting addition to the storyline, the painting Louise is restoring has very little known history and it is up to her, and the team at the Sydney City Art Gallery, to uncover the history of the painting. There is a lot of interesting history here and the meticulous searching has a lot of parallels to the other major search that is such an important part of Louise’s life.
Emma remains at home in Dublin, working a job that has her under-valued and under-paid but her biggest worries revolve around the father of her daughter Isla. Jamie was her high school sweetheart and they had some good times but those are long gone, if it wasn’t for Isla Emma would have nothing to do with him.
For much of their lives Emma and Louise have relied almost exclusively on each other, there were no other close friends. Emma comes across as quite possessive of what she thinks of as hers, even as a child she was at times very jealous of the way her mother cared for Louise. Now as an adult she is jealous that Louise may make new friends in Australia, I think a lot of this was out of fear that she would become less important to the people close to her. It seems like a very childish jealousy, it makes me think of children as they get ready to welcome a new sibling – mummy won’t love me as much because all her love will go to the new baby. Watching both Emma and Louise spread their wings and expand their circle was satisfying, watching their self development and growing self awareness.
Louise needs to find out what happened to her mother, she needs some closure and some understanding. The search takes up all of her spare time and is what she does in her down time. She has it down to a fine art with spreadsheets and lists and routine so when an investigative journalist offers to help there are lots of new avenues open to explore.
The investigative journalist is Dan, her new flatmates brother, and member of a close knit family that Louise has never experienced. A family that welcomes her into their fold and helps her find an acceptance she has always been missing. More importantly is the assistance they all offer in her search.
One thing that is really sticking with me as I sit thinking about the book is a beautiful gesture made by Emma’s mum. I think it’s something that will resonate with anyone who remembers a childhood where their parents couldn’t always give them what they wanted. Emma always wanted to learn ballet but her single mother couldn’t afford the lessons, now out of the blue she surprises Emma with a voucher for a beginners ballet course for adults. Inwardly Emma has no desire to take the lessons and risk making a fool of herself but doesn’t want to break her mother’s heart so agrees to take the lessons and after the first lesson or two finds herself thoroughly enjoying herself – and making some wonderful new friends. This is a beautiful reminder that your mother remembers the times she had to say no, she remembers not being able to do all she wanted for you and if she can do more for you as you get older she will.
Carroll explores contemporary issues that plague many women today, issues of custody which can be heart breaking at the best of times and only get tougher when you have concerns about your child’s safety. The ebbing tide of addiction that means you can never be completely convinced of rehabilitation, mental illness and the difference that diagnosis and treatment can make. A beautiful tale of growth and the search for closure.
I really enjoyed Once Lost though it did take me a little longer to warm to some characters than others.
Once Lost is book #24 for #AWW2015
Once Lost is available now from leading online booksellers and selected bookstores.