By Kathryn Schultz
Impressive, Informative, and Poignant Writing
Eighteen months before Kathryn Schulz’s beloved father died of cancer at the age of 74, she met the woman she would marry. In Lost & Found, she weaves the stories of those two relationships into an exploration of how all our lives are shaped by both loss and discovery.
Schulz describes her father as a charming, brilliant, absentminded Jewish refugee; and her partner as an equally brilliant farmer’s daughter and devout Christian, both of whom form the foundation for Lost & Found. But it is the and symbol in the middle of her title that made Schultz decide to write this book. She explores how private happiness can coexist with global catastrophe, how we get irritated with those we adore, and how love and loss are unavoidably inseparable. Her book is described as “part memoir, part guidebook to living in a world that is simultaneously full of wonder and joy and wretchedness and suffering—a world that always demands both our gratitude and our grief.”
Schultz adroitly explores how the meaning of “to lose” has expanded over the years. In her analysis, she created a never-ending list of all the things she has lost over her lifetime, like a letter from her grandmother or a threadbare blue plaid shirt. She runs down the “far extremity of what it is possible to lose,” such as our life savings, our job, or the custody of our children. She discovered that some losses are actually positive such as being lost in thought or a book or a conversation.” But for the most part, she says, “our losses lie closer in spirit to the death of my father, in that they diminish our lives.” Our losses she says “encompass both the trivial as well as the consequential, the abstract and the concrete, the merely misplaced and the permanently gone.”
Schultz also keenly explores how finding something can be delightful, rewarding, and even exhilarating. She tells us about a young boy named Billy and how he found a falling star walking across a field one night. Finding, she says, takes one of two forms: recovery of something previously lost; or discovery of something we have never seen before. She observes that sometimes we find things by purposely looking for them, and other times we find things by pure luck, like when she met the love of her life.
Schulz’s engaging stories of her father, her partner, and Billy capture your attention from the beginning. Lost & Found is insightful and evocative. Many of her stories brought back memories of my own mother’s death over 28 years ago. I, too, had experienced a great loss, but the birth of my son nine months earlier was that same counterbalancing Schultz described. And much like Schultz, when I first met my husband over 40 years ago, he and I both knew without a doubt, we had found the one we were meant to be with. We both felt as though we had known each other forever, and we were married 90 days later.
I was enthralled by her references to poetry and literature. Her writing is impressive, informative, and poignant. She blended just the right amount of personal stories with thought-provoking analysis. I spent hours reading various parts of the book to my husband. You will want to read this book more than once. I recommend this highly for anyone who has had a significant loss in their life.
KATHRYN SCHULZ is a staff writer at The New Yorker and the author of Being Wrong. She won a National Magazine Award and a Pulitzer Prize for “The Really Big One,” her article about seismic risk in the Pacific Northwest. Lost & Found grew out of “Losing Streak,” a New Yorker story that was anthologized in The Best American Essays. Her work has also appeared in The Best American Science and Nature Writing, The Best American Travel Writing, and The Best American Food Writing. A native of Ohio, she lives with her family on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
Thanks to Netgalley and Random House for an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
Publisher Random House
Published January 11, 2022