When I was given the opportunity to read & review The Luster of Lost Things, I jumped at the opportunity. For one, it has been promoted for lovers of Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove which I read and adored last year. You can read my review here →Book Review: A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. Secondly, there is something sweet and magical about the cover…
Author: Sophie Chen Keller
Genre: Contemporary • Magic Realism
Version: Paperback (336 pages)
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons (August 8, 2017)
Read an excerpt
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.
The Luster of Lost Things falls into the magic realism category. Magic realism can be a very difficult genre to do in my opinion. When done right, magic realism gives us a touch of magic, while still staying grounded in reality. Far too often I have read a magic realism book that crosses the line from enchanting, to just plain weird. ((I’m looking at you Little Nothing)) It really is a fine line. I feel Keller did a good job on this front. There was just the right amount of magic to give this book a dreamy quality without overdoing it. Who wouldn’t be allured by an enchanted bakery where the desserts & pasties move, dance, and breathe fire? Actually, this book reminded me a bit of the movie Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium in regards to some of the magic realism elements. I also loved Walter’s special ability for finding lost things. I could actually use Walter’s specific gift as I often lose things (my phone, keys, wallet… basically anything not attached to my body). The ability to see the “luster of lost things” would definitely come in handy. Overall, I found the magic realism elements very charming & creative.
Let’s talk about our main character, Walter. Walter goes through so much personal growth throughout the course of this book. It truly was a pleasure to watch him go from a boy who secluded himself from the outside world, to a young man with a new thirst for life. Can I just give a huge shout out to Keller for including a main character with a motor speech disorder? Walter is portrayed as a child with childhood apraxia of speech, which is a neurological disorder where the brain has trouble coordinating the muscle movements required for speech. I can tell Keller conducted a lot of research into motor speech disorder for Walter’s character, which I always respect. You can really tell Keller wanted to represent a motor speech disorder in an accurate & sensitive manner. I could feel the frustration that Walter feels when he is unable to physically say what he wants to communicate. I would think it would feel like being trapped inside your own head. It really made me realize how I take my own ease of speech for granted. Books with main characters who have any type of disorder/disability are SO important. They give those of us not affected a valuable perspective into what it is like to have some type of disorder/disability. As a parent with a child who has a disorder (my son has a visual processing disorder, which basically means his brain does not process visual stimuli, text in particular, the way it should), I really appreciate Keller writing a book with a main character like Walter.
There are some wonderful themes included within the pages of this book: overcoming adversity, coming of age, helping others, overcoming fear, compassion, stepping outside of comfort zones, family & friendship. The Luster of Lost Things, at its core, it is an exploration of human nature. It is a coming of age story where the main character discovers their inner strength through a journey that brings them into contact with many different types of people. With each new person that Walter comes into contact with, he learns something new about the world & himself. This book is definitely more of a slower paced character driven novel.
I only had a few slight complaints about this book. While I felt Keller did a good job with the creative magic realism elements, I did also feel they were a bit unclear/confusing at times. For example, was the bakery alive to all of its employees & customers, or was it only Walter who saw the desserts come to life? I wanted more clarification with some of these elements. Also, many reviewers felt like the book starts off with a bang and loses steam while Walter is on his journey to find the book, however I actually felt the opposite: I had a hard time getting into the book & magic realism elements at first, but things turned around quickly once Walter begins his quest. Nothing major that hindered my overall enjoyment of this book.
There was something very endearing about The Luster of Lost Things. I feel like this book will appeal to many types of readers. I particularly recommend it to fans of magic realism, food lovers (Keller’s descriptions of the baking process & the decadent desserts will leave your stomach growling), dog lovers (Walter’s side kick happens to be a golden retriever named Milton, who has a bit of a sweet tooth), and NYC lovers (Walter’s journey takes him all around NYC). If you are looking for a sweet feel-good book with a touch of magic, then give The Luster of Lost Things a go!
*Big thanks to G.P. Putnam’s Sons for providing me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I am the author of The Luster of Lost Things. My short fiction has previously appeared in publications such as Glimmer Train and Pedestal Magazine. Born in China and raised in Ohio and California, I graduated from Harvard College with a degree in Economics and worked in brand consulting and fashion before leaving to pursue my dream of writing. I currently live in New York City with my husband and a not-so-secret cabinet of sweets.
My love for fiction stems from the countless childhood hours my mom spent reading bedtime stories out loud, from dog-eared library copies of E.B. White and Roald Dahl, to help me learn English. So while my parents are mathematicians, I grew up writing short stories.
My first short story publication came when I was 15, in Glimmer Train, after I placed second in their Short Story Award for New Writers. I’ve known since then that I wanted to be a writer, and the first book I wanted to write would be a grown-up version of the books I loved so much as a kid, about a world like ours – populated by good people and children who see more deeply and clearly than any of us – but steeped in magic, something golden, and probably a little weirdness.
I’m rather fond of desserts at any time of the day, especially if they’re of the interesting, unusual variety, like cereal milk ice cream or red velvet pudding or spekuloos waffles (thanks, Shirley!). Growing up, my family had a golden retriever named Thor, after the Norse god of thunder and lightning, although he was afraid of both thunder and lightning.