The Luster of Lost Things by Sophie Chen Keller

The Luster of Lost Things

Sophie Chen Keller

A feel good story with an inspiring and universal lesson at its heart, perfect for fans of The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, A Man Called Ove, and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry.

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In this story for readers of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time and A Man Called Ove, when all seems lost, he finds what matters most.

Walter Lavender Jr. is a master of finding. A wearer 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. Fortunately, he has The Lavenders—his mother’s enchanted dessert shop, where marzipan dragons breathe actual fire. He also has a knack for tracking down any missing thing—except for 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.


Advance Galley Reviews

A beautiful story narrated by a young man who listens and watches more than he talks. The bakery that his mother (who he never calls Mom or Mother, for some reason) runs is magical. He has a talent for finding lost things, for clients he contacts through lost posters -- his powers of observation allow him to feel the lost things calling to be found, or at least leaving traces. Then the book that makes his mother's bakery magical goes missing and he's on the mission of his life. It's an adventure, a mystery without a murder. The overall structure is a little predictable, and I got the feeling that even the author thought so since she squeezed in a jarring and unnecessary plot twist at the end which just made the story seem unnaturally prolonged. But the predictable structure did not diminish my enjoyment of the journey, of the details, of the quirky characters introduced at every turn, of the exploration of all the searching for lost things that we all do. I got a free copy to review from First to Read.

This is a beautiful story. I don't often feel that way when finishing a book, but this one has special meaning for me. This is the story of Walter Lavender, Jr., a 13-year old boy who has never met his namesake because he lost his father before he was born. His world is decidedly small, despite living in New York City, because he has a speech problem. He knows what he wants to say but struggles to say the words aloud. The more he becomes frustrated, the more his words sound like gibberish. He's teased at school and has retreated to his insular world with his awesome dog and attentive mother and for the most part doesn't try to speak much. Fortunately, we see the story from his point of view through his thoughts, and Walter's world is a beautiful place. This book speaks to me because of Walter's inability to articulate his thoughts. My father suffered from Primary Progressive Aphasia and he slowly lost the ability to speak and understand language. My heart is still broken from watching the decline in my father's ability to communicate. When he was first diagnosed, his challenge was exactly like Walter in the story. He knew what he wanted to say but struggled to form the words in a way others could understand. Eventually his world became smaller as he could no longer communicate with people to any form of satisfaction for him. So, he stopped trying and became closer to his loyal dog, Pete. That is Pete in my profile picture. They understood each other in a way that only a speech-impaired man and the dog who loves him can understand. So, reading about Walter, Jr. recognizing and rejecting the limitations of his speech did my heart good. He fought for a better life in a way my dad felt too tired and set in his ways to endure. I was rooting for him all the way.

Totally loved this book and the beautifully written story of Walter as he tries to find his way while searching for lost items. I loved it so much I want to read it again and find things I may have missed. I just pre-ordered a copy to own!

REVIEW OF THE LUSTER OF LOST THINGS Thirteen year old Walter knows what it’s like to lose things because his father has been lost to him for his entire life, having disappeared while co-piloting an airplane prior to Walter’s birth. The boy has a speech disorder but is a keen observer and has become well known for his ability to find things others have lost. On the surface, this is a story about finding things. At a deeper level it is about perseverance, on Walter’s determination to find The Book, a magical lost book that had brought his mother’s bakery (and the baked goods she created) to life. Because the book is gone, the customers have dwindled, and his mother may lose the bakery. In an “Alice in Wonderland” fashion, Walter meets several interesting characters on his journey to locate pages of The Book and learns of the ways in which these people have persisted to make their lives meaningful. The Luster of Lost Things is filled with wondrous descriptions allowing the reader to experience the myriad journeys Walter undertakes, the people he meets, and the experiences he has as he valiantly searches for The Book. As but one example, I loop my lunch box around my neck and start running past restless trees shaking off the summer heat, hurdling over a cat, darting between honking cabs, my right toe starting to wiggle a hole into my high-top. Cool air lifts the back of my jacket and my lunch box thumps against my chest and I fly up Sixth Avenue toward the corner in time to see the bus nudging its way into the flow of traffic. I put on a bust of speed, but the light turns green and the bus emits a feeble roar. Even though this book is of a genre I don’t normally read, I found it to be both engaging and enjoyable. Although primarily written for adults, it is appropriate for children of all ages.

This was one of those difficult to put down books. The story of a boy named Walter, a boy without a voice, a boy without a father, a boy who searches and finds much more than that for which he seeks. A very good read.

The Luster of Lost Things is Keller’s debut novel, and it’s one she should be proud of. Described as reminiscent of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night and A Man Called Ove, The Luster of Lost Things describes a boy who finds himself through finding lost objects. It’s a nostalgic and unpolluted story, showing us a boy’s pure perspective of the world around him. Walter Lavender Jr. is named for his father, a man who disappeared before he was born. Considering this, it’s only natural that Walter turned to finding lost things for people. Walter believed that in searching for one thing, you often found something else along the way. The hope was if he searched for other people’s things enough, eventually he’d find a clue about his father. Despite this very complex way of thinking – Walter can’t actually tell you most of this himself. You see, even at the age of twelve he has trouble talking, and has to rehearse and practice specific sayings, just to get by in his day to day life. Walter’s search for lost things is both charming and endearing. Yes, Walter is helping people out of the goodness of his heart, but he also truly believes that by helping people, he can help himself. Some may perceive this as selfish, but I disagree. Given what we’re shown of Walter, it’s clear he’s driven to help these people, beyond any selfish reasoning. Ironically, a good chunk of book is spent with Walter searching for something his family lost (or had stolen, it gets complicated quickly), the book. The book is a magical book full of drawings, and it is vital for the bakery shop to keep running. Literally – without the book the store has no magic. No magic means no customers, and no customers means no store (it doesn’t help that the new landlord appears to be completely heatless). Walter’s journey for the lost book forces him to meet with and actually talk to many strangers; most of them being worse off than him, and very much in need of a little bit of help. He meets people who are forced to collect cans for change, homeless people, people who live in tunnels, a man who collects abandoned items, a woman desperate to connect with her nephew, a man frayed from the loss of his wife, a girl in need of a friend. They all need Walter’s help to heal, and in turn they all help Walter find a piece of himself. I’ve always been a big fan of introspective characters, and Walter Lavender Jr. is probably one of the more pensive ones I’ve seen in a while. Adding his age to the mix just makes it even more impressive, in my mind. His thought journal is full of beautiful and poignant observations and was a perfect touch on the author’s part. I actually don’t read many books like this – as I rarely get in the mood for them (if not done right I find myself feeling more depressed than inspired), but in this case I’m happy I decided to give it a try. If you’re looking for a nostalgic read then this is the book for you.

This book was a bit odd to me. I loved the overall story. I was confused by the magical dessert shop. Was it metaphor? Was it real? Was magic a part of the world? It didn't seem to be, but no one was particularly amazed or surprised by the magic if it wasn't something that was possible. I would have enjoyed the book more if the magic wasn't real, but was metaphor or tied to the way the protagonist saw the world. It was just something that was beautiful imagery but did not (to me) seem to enhance the story. It confused me more than anything. Similarly, the way he found the trail of lost things was a nice technique and almost necessary for the way the story ended, but wasn't explained well. It almost fell into the category of something that the main character was so used to that they didn't find it strange and therefore didn't call attention to it. It didn't quite make that leap though, especially as most of his finding was done because he was so very observant and patient. I greatly enjoyed his journey. His exploration of the city and interactions with people he met were lovely. Honestly, if it had just been that without the majority of the magical aspects, I would have loved the story. As it is, it's a good book, but not something I would actively recommend or keep on my shelves.

The premise of this book, initially, made me worry it was going to get repetitive and boring. Never go with your first thoughts when diving into a new book -- lesson learned. Lessons learned throughout the book also as the young character learns what it means to never give up, always believe, be willing every day to keeping your eyes open for opportunities and, perhaps most importantly, having an open heart... Always. When this comes out it will be among those books that I encourage my high school stents to check out. The whimsy and vivid details used will most assuredly strike a cord with many of them. Throughly enjoyed this book.

This was a charming story about a boy named Walter Lavender, Jr., who grows up in New York City with his loving mother, who runs a magical bakery. Walter's father was a pilot who went missing before his son's birth, so Walter has a special affinity for lost things. Although he doesn't speak, he is an expert at helping strangers to find what they've lost. When the enchanted book that gives the bakery its magic goes missing and the store is in danger of closing, Walter and his loyal dog Milton go on a hero's quest to find it and save the day. Along the way he learns to conquer his fears, gain self-confidence, makes new friends, and literally finds his voice. He comes to terms with his father's loss and realizes that he needs to engage with the world and risk being hurt in order to have a fuller life. Sometimes 13 year old Walter's observations were a bit too precocious and his journey a little too full of Life Lessons. But on the whole, Walter and his story are very likeable. Definitely a feel-good story for people of all ages!

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A sweet, lyrical written story about Walter a boy whose difficulty finding his voice leads him to finding lost items. Walter has been looking out for his lost father since his plane disappeared starting his affinity toward lost things. Magical elements surround Walter centering in his Mom's patisserie until their special book is stolen and the shop is imperiled. Walter and Milton his dog meet and help people find what they need and make friends while looking for the book to save the shop. Their trip was entertaining leaning toward fantastic at times. Walter's notebook observations were endearing. Nice growing up story imbued with touches of magic.

 


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