Book Review: Our Lady of the Lost and Found

I’d like to offer this book review in honor of our Blessed Mother, as it is currently her month – May!

I came across “Our Lady of the Lost and Found” lying around my parents’ house – which is the way I stumble upon many of good books. My mom was just finishing it. She said it was a good read, but perhaps the author, Diane Schoemperlen, could have benefited from a more thorough editing since it tended to drag in the middle. I was still pretty intrigued, so I picked it up.

The premise is basically this: what would happen if the Virgin Mary decided to take a break from all her interceding and grace-giving to vacation at the house of a middle-aged writer for a week? Or perhaps this: what would happen to a middle-aged not particularly religious woman in modern times if the Virgin Mary showed up at her doorstep asking to for a place to stay for a while?

Now that I’ve finished it, months later, I can say my mother’s review was spot on—and seeing as how she has much more experience with literature than myself (in terms of higher education and in terms of being decades ahead of myself in how much she has read!), there’s no surprise there! So here is my review:

Even huge Mary fans will learn a lot: Schoemperlen says of herself, “I am not a philosopher, a historian, a scientist or a Catholic” (p 340), but she certainly is a phenomenal researcher. Interwoven throughout the story of the narrator’s encounter with Mary, she recounts countless historical Marian apparitions. Even those who know Mary well will surely learn some new stories about her in

this book – and again, her research is sound (check the author’s notes at the end). Here’s just a few of the apparitions she mentions that I had never heard of: Our Lady of Montserrat, Our Lady of Prompt Succor, Our Lady of Hope, Our Lady of the Cape.

On the half-way point of the story of a life: I think I’ll get even more out of this book in a few more decades—the narrator is middle-aged. Mary’s providential visit becomes a spring of reflection for her in understanding her own life thus far. She has a wonderfully nuanced way of leading the reader through the development of this process of self-reflection that fleshes out such dichotomies as irony/grace, fact/fiction, body/soul, history/present.

A more thorough editing: It did take me several months to finish the book—and not because I don’t read often—I did not always want to pick up this book. There were some points in the middle that dragged slow, where too many details or too much introspection made me want to stop listening to the narrator altogether. But I stayed faithful to it (I very much dislike not finishing books). And towards the end the story swings back into place and I found myself wanting to finish it. And the ending is a good one.

My favorite image: As the narrator and Mary share their week together, they do a lot of sitting at the kitchen table drinking coffee. I love that image. And if Mary knows me at all (which she surely does), she’d know that’s just the way to get to into my own heart.

All in all, though you may find yourself having to push through the slow parts, Our Lady of the Lost and Found is absolutely worth the read—and very well suited to these hot, lazy months of summer (which by the look of things are already upon us in Austin!)