Non­fic­tion

Lost & Found: A Memoir

  • Review
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.

Deb­o­rah Miller received rab­bini­cal ordi­na­tion at the Jew­ish The­o­log­i­cal Sem­i­nary. She lives in New Jer­sey with her hus­band and daugh­ter, where she serves as a hos­pice chap­lain and teacher.

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