Adult Fiction, Bullying, Disabilities, Family Bonds, Friendships, Magical Realism, Societal Roles
Thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons for providing an ARC in exchange for and honest review.
Release Date: Available Now
Synopsis: Walter Lavender Jr. is a master of finding. A wear of high-tops. A maker of croissants. A son keeping vigil, twelve years counting.
But he wouldn’t be able to tell you. Silenced by his motor speech disorder, Walter’s life gets lonely. Forth he has The Lavenders—mother’s enchanted dessert shop, where marzipan dragons breathe actual fire. He also has a knack for tracking down any missing thing—except his lost father.
So, when the Book at the root of the bakery’s magic vanishes, Walter, accompanied by his overweight golden retriever, journeys through New York City to find it—along the way encountering an unforgettable cast of lost souls.
Steeped in nostalgic wonder, The Luster of Lost Things explores the depths of our capacity for kindness and our ability to heal. A lyrical meditation on why we become lost and how we are found, from the bright, broken heart of a boy who knows where to look for everyone but himself.
You guys! This book! I’m not sure how to even begin except to say that while I’ve read some fantastic books so far this year, The Luster of Lost Things surpasses them all!
Walter Lavender Jr. is a thirteen-year-old boy who is not only dealing with a motor speech disorder that makes it difficult for him to communicate, but he longs for his father who went missing before he was born. Because he’s “different” from his classmates, he doesn’t have any friends, and is the victim of bullying. But he has his loving and devoted mother, Lucy, and their magical bakery, The Lavenders. There, it’s completely normal to see chocolate mice jump rope with licorice, and other desserts come to life. The source of the magic is the Book, a gift given to Lucy, one cold winter’s night by a woman to whom Lucy gave shelter. I’m trying really hard not to include any spoilers, so I’m just going to say that ever since the Book was left, the, desserts came to life and the shop prospered.
When the Book mysteriously disappears, the magic also departs and the future of the shop is in peril thanks to a new greedy landlord. So, young Walter, who has an uncanny knack for finding lost things, accompanied by his best friend and Golden Retriever, Milton, embarks upon a quest to find the missing book. Along the way he meets some incredible people who turn his journey into much more than a quest to find a magical book. This turns into a voyage of self-discovery, where Walter gains confidence in himself which in turn leads him to successfully form lasting connections to the people he meets.
Walter is one of the most likable, charming and relatable characters I’ve come across in a very long time. By the end of the first chapter he stole my heart and I felt as though I was inside the story accompanying him and Milton as they traveled through the gritty streets of New York City on their mission. All of the characters in this book, including Milton are vividly brought to life, and each of them have a hand in young Walter’s transformation.
There are really three parts to this book. The beginning which is set in the bakery and is full of magical realism. Then there’s the middle, where Walter is away from the warmth and safety of his mother and their shop. And finally, the ending which has Walter back where he began, albeit a much different boy then when he left. There have been many reviewers who have commented that they loved the beginning, but found Walter’s journey too slow. I have to respectfully disagree. While Walter’s quest does depart from the magical realism the book opens with, that doesn’t take away from the connections he makes with the quirky people he meets. And while, they all help him in some fashion, the positive impact he has on them is truly remarkable.
Writing an adult book from a child’s perspective can’t be easy, and when that child suffers from a speech disorder, well, that’s almost unheard of. The only other book I’ve read that’s successfully done this is The Curious Incident of the Dog In Night-Time, by Mark Haddon. Sophie Chen Keller brilliantly brings to life this young boy who is highly intelligent and knows what he wants to say, yet frustratingly struggles to say the words out loud. We see the story unfold through his eyes and thoughts, and it’s a wondrous thing because Walter’s world is amazing and beautiful.
The Luster of Lost Things is one of those rare books that if you read it, you’ll remember for it a very long time. I wish I had tons of money, because I’d buy hundreds of copies and leave them in train stations, subways, park benches, restaurants, mail them to all of you and, well, you get the picture. As I’m not rich, I’m just going to encourage everyone who reads this review to buy themselves a copy, or borrow it from their library. This is an uplifting and beautifully told tale with a boy who will touch your heart in ways you can’t imagine. It’s a confectionery delight that is a lovely respite from the real world. Please, give yourself a gift that will not only give you the warm fuzzies, but will also remind you what’s truly important in life.
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