Tag Archives: Tom Winter

Review: Lost & Found by Tom Winter

26th March 2013


*I received this novel from the publisher, Corsair, in exchange for an honest review.

From the inside flap:

Carol is unhappily married to a man she doesn’t love and mother to a daughter she doesn’t understand. Stuck in a life she doesn’t want and crippled with guilt, she can’t shake the feeling that she has wasted her life. So she puts pen to paper and writes a Letter to the Universe.

Albert is a widowed postman, approaching retirement age, and living with his cat, Gloria, for company. Slowly being pushed out at his place of work, he is forced down to the section of the post office where they sort undeliverable mail. When a series of letters turn up with a smiley face drawn in place of an address, he cannot help reading them.

Sometimes when I read, I feel I am hovering above the story, acutely aware of the tactics of the writer, the outline, the plan. I wonder if this is the editor in me, or if it is simply the sign of a reader. With Lost & Found by Tom Winter, unfortunately, I was aware of a supreme lack of character.

Carol and Albert are both extremely unhappy, though Albert’s unhappiness is much easier to understand. Feeling worthless and lonely with his impending retirement looming, Albert encounters well-meant but still hurtful comments from coworkers and nastiness from his neighbor.

Carol, on the other hand, tells us she is unhappy, but it’s difficult to understand why. She has a teenage daughter who, on the whole, seems much better than many sullen, angry teens in books. Her husband seems simple but relatively kind. Yet she is devastatingly unhappy and plans to leave her husband until he divulges some life-changing news. She begins writing letters, and Albert looks forward to them in the way only a truly lonely man can.

Lost & Found is a wonderful example of how two readers can read the same book and come away with vastly different impressions. Leeswammes really enjoyed this book. While I did finish it relatively quickly, though, it wasn’t a favorite. I found the characters (Albert being the only exception) wooden and irredeemable. The main impetus for Carol’s angst isn’t really revealed until much too late for me to empathize with her and understand her (often) mean-spiritedness toward her husband and mother. Without any background, the bitterness she feels toward both is difficult to see in any other light. The letters are the best part of this novel, and it would have been interesting to stick with Albert’s perspective more and learn of Carol only through her letters.

This novel has been compared quite a lot on Goodreads to The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, another novel I wasn’t particularly charmed by. Lost & Found, though, is a simpler (and less preachy) attempt to explore those whose unhappiness is so profound that the only means of hope is escape.