Lost & Found: A Memoir

By – September 1, 2022

Read­ing Kathryn Schulz’s new mem­oir Lost & Found, in which she describes her par­al­lel jour­neys of griev­ing the death of her father and build­ing a future with the love of her life, is like dis­cov­er­ing a trea­sure trove. With exquis­ite writ­ing, emo­tion­al com­plex­i­ty, and ele­gant wit, Schulz shares her sto­ry and cel­e­brates the depths of her rela­tion­ships. Through­out the book, Schulz remains cen­tered on the par­tic­u­lar­i­ty of her expe­ri­ences, focus­ing on the pos­si­bil­i­ties — phys­i­cal, emo­tion­al, and spir­i­tu­al — that they have cre­at­ed in her life. Where­as the author’s rela­tion­ships and expe­ri­ences can only be her own, the book’s cen­tral mes­sage is uni­ver­sal: Hold­ing things that are seem­ing­ly con­tra­dic­to­ry is hard. There is no mag­ic bul­let for cop­ing with grief, and love still takes work and com­mit­ment despite it.

In addi­tion to Schulz’s excep­tion­al writ­ing, the book ben­e­fits from its tight orga­ni­za­tion. Schulz lim­its the time­line to two-to-three years, keep­ing read­ers laser-focused on the moment, and under­lin­ing the ten­sion between the inten­si­ty of her expe­ri­ences and how she process­es them over time.

The book’s three parts — Lost,” Found,” and &” — all hold up inde­pen­dent­ly of one anoth­er but work well togeth­er. It would cer­tain­ly be pos­si­ble and valu­able to read them straight through, out of order, or com­plete­ly separately.

Rather than a prac­ti­cal guide to love or grief, the mem­oir is a cel­e­bra­tion of the lan­guage and ideas that make these expe­ri­ences mean­ing­ful. With ongo­ing ref­er­ences to poet­ry, lit­er­a­ture, and aca­d­e­m­ic research, Schulz explores not how to” have these expe­ri­ences, but the dif­fer­ent ways to be” with them. Through­out the book, read­ers will note that Schulz acknowl­edges much of the priv­i­lege that allows her to live and think as she does, that even offers her a most­ly hap­py end­ing. One can think about Schulz writ­ing Lost & Found as an act of self-care, and she invites read­ers to share in this prac­tice as well. Tak­ing up the lega­cy of Joan Didion’s The Year of Mag­i­cal Think­ing and Gail Caldwell’s Let’s Take the Long Way Home, Schulz impress­es on her read­ers the sanc­ti­ty of rec­og­niz­ing the peo­ple who are most impor­tant to us, learn­ing to hold onto them, and know­ing how to let them go.

Deb­by Miller is a long-time board mem­ber of Jew­ish Book Coun­cil, serv­ing on its Fic­tion com­mit­tee, and lat­er found­ing the Nation­al Jew­ish Book Award for Book Clubs. She is cur­rent­ly a Vice Pres­i­dent of the orga­ni­za­tion. Deb­by is based in Greens­boro, NC and has been involved in the Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty through Nation­al Coun­cil of Jew­ish Women (NCJW), AIPAC, B’nai Shalom and the Fed­er­a­tion. She was pres­i­dent of the local Women’s Divi­sion and cam­paign chair, and also got involved in the Nation­al Women’s Divi­sion. One of her pri­ma­ry phil­an­thropic endeav­ors is her work with JDC, where she has been a mem­ber of the board since 1994

Discussion Questions

In Lost & Found, Kathryn Schulz has cre­at­ed a mem­oir that tog­gles between the cos­mic and the inti­mate. This tal­ent­ed writer brings the con­sid­er­able force of her intel­lect to bear on fun­da­men­tal ques­tions about life: What makes a fam­i­ly? How do we grieve? Why do we insist on search­ing for things that are miss­ing? In the process of los­ing her father and find­ing her life part­ner, Schulz is con­stant­ly observ­ing, in breath­tak­ing detail, the meta­phys­i­cal ques­tions posed by every­day sit­u­a­tions. She is bril­liant at con­nect­ing expe­ri­ences, as in her com­ment that “[l]ove, like grief, has the prop­er­ties of a flu­id: it flows every­where, fills any con­tain­er, sat­u­rates everything.” 

Indeed, it is the act of griev­ing for her father that pro­pels the nar­ra­tive’s first half, a trib­ute to the man Schulz describes as part Socrates, part Tevye.” Mul­ti­lin­gual, mag­net­ic, and intel­lec­tu­al­ly vora­cious, Schulz’s father arrived in Amer­i­ca in 1952 after a series of uproot­ings. Schulz does not dwell on the wartime tragedies that affect­ed his fam­i­ly, but she makes clear that her father spent his life but­tress­ing ebul­lient­ly against the sense of exis­ten­tial loss caused by his ear­ly years. As a daugh­ter’s trib­ute to her beloved father, Lost & Found is a tes­ta­ment to the gift of ethics inside a gift of lan­guage” that he bequeathed to her.

The mem­oir’s sec­ond half relates how Schulz found the love of her life – proof pos­i­tive that stay­ing open to the pos­si­bil­i­ties of and” can bring you immea­sur­able joy. Tak­en togeth­er, the mem­oir’s sec­tions (and the con­nec­tions between them) reveal Schulz as a skill­ful nar­ra­tor of the spec­trum of human experience.