Book Review (Top Review on Amazon): The Special Power of Restoring Lost Things by Courtney Mauk

Original review at

Phew, talk about a downer. Everything about this book is joyless, hopeless. It really fits in the mood of the subject matter, but for the time frame, a year after a girl’s disappearance, I thought there could be SOME lightheartedness, but there wasn’t really anything for this book. Like zip, zero, AND zilch.

All right, I’ll try not to spoil anything crucial, but yeah, this is a more detailed review so there’s bound to be one or two things that get ruined. My apologizes.

Writing Style: I like the short sentences, always thought they helped the pacing and the mood. What I don’t care for, and maybe I’m in the minority these days, is present tense. I think it’s limiting, and doesn’t draw me into the moment like it’s designed to. But with most of the books I’ve read lately in present tense, I’m starting to slowly, cope. The issue here is that Mauk likes to swap between past and present tense, as well as past and present moments. And there’s not much indication of the change. Like, “Whoa, this chick’s here with them?” Oh wait no, that’s the past. I caught on towards the end, only because I think the entire book from the “present” on takes place over 24 hours. So anything that doesn’t directly come after the last part must be in the past. It’s confusing, and not in the good way. For the most part, I got over it after I realized what happened, except one part where I have no idea how all the characters got together. Seemed very forced. Which reminds me…

Characters: I can’t argue that these aren’t developed characters. They are. But they’re the unlikable kind of developed, not like Jack Sparrow who’s kind of a dirtbag but in a cool way, but like Eeyore mixed with Marvin from Hitchhiker’s. True, these people are dealing with a very depressing situation. But they let do more than define them; they aren’t really anything else at all. The absence of the older daughter is everything, like hermits on snowy peaks devoting themselves to… solitude I guess? Of course it would change them, but I think Mauk went a little overboard. I mean, these people worshiped this girl who to me, was kind of a jerk. Maybe it was intended; the symbols of the cheap saint candles and how it relates to the title, and if so, +5 author points and a kudos bar, but the transformation is pretty extreme. Especially with the crazy, hardcore life that 20-year-old lived.

Anyway, there’s 3 main characters that get the story told from their point of view, and each chapter goes through them in order. First is Carol, the wife and mother, up for national award of I Love You Since You’re Not Here Anymore. This woman has issues. Enough that I don’t think the therapist she avoids going to could do anything to help except send her to Arkham. She worships her daughter once she moves out, and I guess bribes her with money to come by once a week? These past stories come up a lot, and they’re weird. Such a fool.

Next is Drew. They call him a straight shooter; you know, those of us who only take illegal drugs every once in awhile and leave the country on a whim as teenagers without telling our worried family. He’s a weirdo too, alternating between being the family’s strict provider and the cool dad that winks at your “magazine” stash. Nobody seems to like this guy, even though he seems to be the most sane of the family. Another fool.

Last of the trifecta is 15-year-old Ben, a kid who at first seemed to have learned from his sister’s poor lifestyle, then decides he’s just going to mimic her bad choices, complete with all the same deadbeats his sister palled around with. Remember that everyone worshiped her, so all of these adults not only let this kid do things that aren’t only reckless and life-threatening, they encourage it because his sister was the best at everything. He alternates between learning from what happened to sister and doing things differently back to copying her throughout the book. The legacy of fools.

Mood: Normally, I’d stick the plot here, but this is more appropriate. This isn’t as much a story about what happens as it is how the characters react and deal with their situation. It opens up dark and depressing, and never lets up. That’s not so bad by itself, I like a dark mood as much as the next body cloak with white make-up, but for it to work for me, to show how truly miserable their lives have become, I feel like it needs to be contrasted with the opposite. For me to truly feel the pain of the daughter missing, I want to see how the happy times they shared together. I want to see the laughter, the jokes, the teasing, anything like that. Maybe it’s because I don’t have kids, but this seemed to be missing that crucial piece and honestly ruined most of the book for me. I don’t think there was even one moment of this, and I don’t recall a single joke in this entire book. This is what put it down to Two Stars for me instead of me. Even those cerebral, intense Nolan movies have one or two jokes, but this one… Nothing. So don’t expect to smile.

So if you want a depressing read for whatever reason, or maybe you’re wondering how a very dysfunctional family deals with their hard circumstances, then you might like this. But if you want anything with the whole spectrum of human emotion, the highs and the lows, maybe steer clear of this one.

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