Wednesday, October 31, 2007

"The Baby Business" - Deborah L. Spar

"How Money, Science, And Politics Drive the Commerce of Conception"

I truly believe reproduction is going to be one of the most important political issues of the next century. You only have to look at abortion being discussed back and forth, to realize that women's reproductive rights are far from being a settled issue.

Spar's "The Baby Business" is fascinating stuff even for those, like me, who are severely impaired when it comes to economics. The author is a professor at Harvard, but the book keeps away from pie charts and complicated theories.

There are however, many facts that everyone can understand: 12 thousand dollars per round of IVF (usually amounts to 60-100 thousand dollars before the couple gives birth); 4500 dollars for an egg (on average, since it can go much higher than that); 300 for sperm; and, on average, 25 thousand dollars for an international adoption.

These numbers relate to the american market, and there are some countries who provide assisted reproduction as part of the national health program. Still, it is staggering.

The aim of Spar's book is to show clearly that reproduction is a business, and for many clinics, pharmaceutical companies and adoption agencies it is a very big business. Prospective parents don't of course, view themselves as consumers, anymore than society considers babies a product, and yet, there is no doubt that infertility, or the need for a child, created a market, and a fast growing one, at that.

And where there is demand...

Western society has been consistently looking the other way while the reproduction business regulates itself in the absence of legislation, and the result, for now, is a society where the wealthy can use every kind of technology to have babies (and when that fails, adopt one), while poor women are unable to control their own reproduction.

Spar makes a strong case regarding the economy, and resolutely keeps away from the ethics. What she wants is a political eye and hand involved in this (especially in the U.S.A.) un-regulated market.

But there is much in "The Baby Business" that will have the reader keeping his/her own moral score - it is impossible not to.

I was especially surprised at finding out that in America, black women of modest means, are often employed as surrogates for white couples. The reason? The different ethnicity of the baby, would make it harder for the surrogate to establish her rights in regard to the child in court.

International adoption is an even harder subject to tackle, but one that I suspect will come under harder political scrutiny faster than IVF or other "technological" reproduction techniques. For how can we be sure that the mothers of these babies where not put under pressure to give them up for adoption (in Guatemala (2) the subject has already been raised)? If they are indeed orphans in need of good homes why do the prospective parents pay 25 thousand dollars? Who receives this money? Can we be sure we are not creating a market that will try its hardest to survive, and even thrive?

Are we creating a society where the poor will be reproductive machines for the rich: egg and sperm donors, surrogate wombs, biological parents? Where only the wealthy will be able to benefit from genetic advances that can predict which life-threatening diseases (and even physical traits)a certain embryo possesses?

Debora Spar does not provide answers to these moral questions but does, rightly, insist that we are keeping from looking to closely at "The Baby Business" at our own peril.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

"Like A Sister" - Janice Daugharty

The fifties in America are usually portrayed as an age of unprecedented wealth, which they certainly were, for many. Stay at home mothers, television, supermarkets and one automobile in every suburban garage.

Daugharty's "Like A Sister" presents a different reality. Set in a small Georgia town in 1956, the book takes the reader through a few tragic months in the life of Sister, a 13 year old girl.

Neglected by her young mother Marnie and her new boyfriend, Sister spends most of her days and all of her summer vacation acting as a mother to her 10 year old twin brothers and baby sister. She yearns to be "respectable" like her neighbour Willa Lamar, without knowing exactly what that entails other than wearing shoes on the street, not sleeping in her day clothes and going to church.

Unfortunately for her, the citizens of Cornerville seem to have made up their minds: the Odumses are nothing but white trash, and whatever goes on in the back room of the cafe her mother and boyfriend have taken over, it is most certainly not respectable.

Sister loves her mother almost as much as the woman ignores her and her siblings, and like so many abused children is fiercely protective of Marnie: she tears petitions tacked to the door of the restaurant, hides a charred cross she finds one morning in front of the cafe. When, one night, she watches, unable to move, men dressed in white hoods assemble in front of the cafe, her most powerful emotion is shame - she feels as if she should be helping her mother.

Both the southern dialect and the geographical precision of the descriptions make "Like A Sister" an absorbing read. We feel the hot tar under Sister's feet as she makes her way across town, her little body growing tired and crooked as she carries her baby sister (a baby which, almost a year old still has not been given a name by her mother) on her hip up and down the road all day long.

In the end, though, it is Sister herself that makes Daugharty's book so poignant. A child so beaten down she doesn't even question the morality of the slimy local politician's attention: she knows it's got something to do with "sex", and even though she ignores what that means exactly, is aware at that young age that it is some sort of currency between men and women and tries repeatedly so convince herself to enter the bargain; a girl that is so aware of her own status in the small town that she is grateful that none of Willa's daughters are in her class at school - even though they all play together at home, she doesn't expect them to acknowledge her there.

When her mother finally decides to leave her behind and keep on moving, the girl is so desperate to convince Marnie that she will not be a burden, that she offers "We could both be whores" and means it. Sister would do anything, even after her siblings have been placed in adoptive homes, even after Willa has offered to take her in, to keep close to this woman who is nothing more than footsteps coming in late at night, shouts behind a closed door and far way memories of happier times.

It is while refusing to believe she has been left behind, while keeping the lights on so her neighbours will believe she is not alone that Sister falls prey to the sexual attack that has been eminent throughout most of the book.

What happens next is a particularly satisfying kind of revenge - the kind that southern women seem to be so deft at, cleverly hidden behind macadamia pies, iced tea, pink sundresses and the scent of magnolias - with help of the respectable Willa.

Of my latest reads, only Jim Harrison comes to mind as an author so firmly anchored in a sense of time and place - enough to make you live there while you read, and take you back whenever you remember it.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

"Foreskin's Lament - A Memoir" - Shalom Auslander

And now for something completely different.

See, maybe Coupland is on to something when he moans about not growing up religious: it most definitely will mess you up, but then you'll get to write an incredibly funny book.

I read the first chapter online and knew immediately I had to read "Foreskin's Lament" as quickly as possible. I've just finished it, and now I want to get as many people as possible on board so we can all start using my favourite sentence in unison: "That would be so God".

There are so many books coming out every month on finding God, or at least some new-agey version of the guy/gal, that the whole prospect of someone trying desperately to loose him is already a winner.

Shalom Auslanderwas raised in an jewish orthodox community in the state of New York and that wasn't his only problem: his father was abusive and his mother withheld affection in exchange for religious compliance. If he was smart, he should have become a rabbi (he did dabble, briefly, with orthodoxy in his late teens)and saved himself a whole lot of trouble.

Instead, since the age of nine he became an avid non-kosher binge-eater, consumer of pornography (here, he didn't stray from family tradition, we soon find out) and not much later, a doobie smoking, yarmulke wearing, serial shoplifter.

How can you possibly go wrong with this kind of material?

Auslander doesn't and his childhood and coming-of-age are rendered even more dramatic from his narrative standpoint: at 35, he has just barely gained some much needed geographical and emotional distance from his family when he's hit by the one great feud voider of adult life, the first-born.

I don't really know if Auslander's book is as hilariously funny the absence of any kind of religious upbringing, but I'm pretty sure it's non-denominational: I had only a mild catholic education, but a lot of it rang true, especially the constant dread of punishment and the little deals you make with God in order to (try and) get something out of the bearded one.

The ironic tragedy of Auslander's position is not that he isn't religious, of course, but that he his. But like many others he sees a wide gap between God and the seemingly random prescriptions that organized religion sets up around him, the way that rabbis and priests want to be the sole brokers of a relationship that should be personal and maybe a lot more private.

That many people in religious communities are not as pious as they would have other believe, is a given. That a mother would cast her own child away for non-compliance is harder to swallow - or maybe not, given that whole Abraham-Isaac episode.

In the end, saying "Fuck this shit" and going out on your own way, is how many of the world's religions got their first break. At least, that's what Auslander is telling himself, and those of us with any sense will be shouting "Amen!" as he goes forth to find his own, private, Promised Land.

"I believe in a personal God; Everything I do, He takes personally."

"The Gum Thief" - Douglas Coupland

This one had me stumped for days. I finished it last sunday but I just couldn't make up my mind on "The Gum Thief".

The thing is, I couldn't believe Coupland actually wrote something so mediocre and derivative and was trying desperately to justify it. But I can't - if "The Gum Thief" had been written by an unknown author, I believe it would never have seen the light of day, and readers everywhere would have missed absolutely nothing.

I read "Generation X" when I was 12 or 13 years old and became a fully fledged fan at 16 with "Life After God". I grew up reading Coupland and he is probably the one author of which I read everything (fiction). I loved the "uppers" ("Shampoo Planet", "Microserfs", "Miss Wyoming", "All Families Are Psychotic") and grew to appreciate the "downers" ("Girlfriend In A Coma", "Hey, Nostradamus", "Eleanor Rigby"). Last year's "JPod" felt like his best work ever.

So I was looking forward to "The Gum Thief", set in Staples and featuring Roger, a divorced forty something and Bethany a twenty-something goth. After the first entry by Roger, though, the book just seems to go nowhere, slowly. I had to force myself to keep going - I actually fell asleep three times reading it (and not at night).

It's not just the fact that so many of the ideas are recycled from previous novels (life after a certain age is meaningless and empty; fear of the pending apocalipse; sadness at the absence of faith, or at least a religious education; loving the new, hating the old ergo, hating Europe; fear of not being able to love or connect with other human beings)because Coupland always played around with the same set of fixed notions. And it's not that the format of narration (circumscribed to written communications between Roger, Bethany and her mother) seems to keep the characters and story at a fuzzy distance.

It's just that it's no good. And while on the one hand, I got the feeling that Coupland was aiming at a younger audience of new readers (hence the summary of all his ideas), on the other, it was pretty clear that his heart wasn't in it.

"The Gum Thief" makes life seem completely bleak and hopeless, and then, in the very last pages, as Bethany tries to take her own life, Roger (who certainly contributed to her feeling that way)suddenly changes his tone dramatically and tells her, in a completely sappy epistle, that life is worth living: sure, there's not any real hope of attaining knowledge or happiness, but's great to be alive!

Honestly, it felt like the last, life-affirming and then "hey, the whole thing was a joke! Lighten up!" pages were ordered by the publisher, in an effort to curtail a wave of teen suicides in British Columbia.

Look, don't spend 250-plus pages persuading me that life in the new millennium is utterly hopeless and depressing and then try to tell me you don't really mean it. That's just wrong.

As for "Glove Pond" the novel within the novel, that Roger keeps feeding Bethany and that critics found "a camp reconstruction of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” directed by a young John Waters" and "campily funny", I thought it was beyond terrible. I still don't know what the point was, and if there was one, it still doesn't justify how completely uninteresting it was.

My husband had a dream where I said "Look not only Douglas Coupland doesn't want to grow up, he also doesn't want his readers to grow up". I don't know if that's it, but "The Gum Thief" left me feeling a little sad. I almost wish it had left me feeling old.
That, I could deal with.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

"Free Food For Millionaires" - Min Jin Lee

Min Jin Lee's first book is quite the tour de force. For starters its length is staggering at 560 pages but it is also ambitious in the number of characters it follows during a period of more or less five years.

The protagonist is Casey Han, daughter of korean immigrants in the United States. Just out of Princeton where she studied economy, we first meet her during a stressful family dinner after she has just decided to defer her entry into Columbia Law School for a year.

Her parents are very conservative and her father in particular expects nothing short of complete devotion and obedience of the two sisters (Casey's sister Tina is going to Medical School). The dinner ends in a violent confrontation where Joseph Han strikes his daughter and tells her to leave her home permanently. Casey goes home to find her white boyfriend engaging in a threesome.

These are the events that set "Free Food For Millionaires" in motion. Casey is an extremely likable character: though she has gone to Princeton and engaged in most of the social activities the university threw her way (vacations in the Hamptons, eating clubs, golf) she doesn't consider herself an Ivy leaguer. The fact is, her parents work in a dry-cleaners (the family has never had a vacation) and live in Queens, and even though she is loan-free because of a scholarship she can hardly indulge in the sort of carefree spending that seems to go with the territory. Not for Casey the benefit of a masters degree in Italy (in which her best friend Virginia is about to embark), or the gift of a Manhattan apartment bestowed by her father (such as her childhood friend Ella receives). She doesn't even have the financial support of being admitted into a banking program like her boyfriend.

She has no job, ambivalent feelings toward a career in either finance or law, and her love of well tailored and expensive clothes and hats, quickly throws her into a bottomless pit of credit-card debt. Whenever she can, she slips off into a rooftop or terrace and smokes about five cigarettes in a row.

Following Casey in her after school years, as she grows estranged from her parents and searches for meaning, money and love, would have been more than enough. Yet Lee, influenced by an admiration of XIX century novels (as she states in this interview), gives voice to the stories of many other secondary characters. And this is where the book lost its stamina, and freshness as far as I was concerned.

It is arguable that Casey's goody-two shoes friend Ella, deserves her own story, as does her korean-gone-mogul boss, Sabine, her sister Tina, her mother Leah, Virginia or her co-workers - even Ella's husband Ted gets his two cents - but I constantly felt as if Casey's voice was being robbed of depth in order to accommodate this vast cast of supporting actors. And more often than not, their respective episodes felt forced and stilted.

At the beginning of part II I was surprised and upset when I was told two years had passed - what had Casey been doing and thinking those 24 months?

And there was little final resolution for many of the characters. Tina, the younger sister, I felt was especially badly treated by Lee's choice of narrative: just as she shows some sign of being more than the dutiful daughter we abandon her broke, taking an indefinite break from med school in order to take care of her first-born. Casey's mother is also left at an impasse after having a miscarriage, being made pregnant by her choir director.

Even Casey's finale is left vague: she probably won't go to business school, or will she? Is getting back with the boyfriend she so carelessly cheated on?

There were great moments in "Free Food For Millionaires" and I wouldn't necessarily say no to another book by Lee. But after more than 500 pages I was left with the feeling that the real story was about to begin just as the book ended.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

"Franny And Zooey" - J. D. Salinger

"It's everybody, I mean. Everything everybody does is so - I don't know - not wrong, or even mean, or even stupid necessarily. But just so tiny and meaningless and - sad-making. And the worst part is, if you go bohemian or something crazy like that, you're conforming just as much as everybody else, only in a different way."

"Phooey, I say, on all whiteshoe college boys who edit their campus literary magazines. Give me an honest con man any day."

On college professors:
"They make everything they touch turn absolutely academic and useless - Or worse cultish."

Well, you get the gist of it. Franny and Zooey are sister and brother, 20 and 25 years old respectively. The year is 1955 and the kids are going wild - actually, they seem to be going mental. They are obsessed with acting in almost the same way they are obsessed with zen buddhism, hindu sacred texts, and christian sects - but mostly, they can't stop going on about how everyone else is so dense and frivolous, so absolutely incapable of glimpsing their deep personal moral dilemmas.

Well screw Franny, Zooey and Holden while you're at it. You know what it is, don't you? These kids are rich. Period. That's their number one problem. 1955, 2005 whatever. They're still around, looking pretty and distraught at the lack of meaning, Truth and beauty in life. But guess what? They never worry about the rent, carfare or lunch.

They all annoy the hell out of me. But. I'll never be that witty, dahling. Nor that insightful. Like it or not, Franny's evaluation of campus life, the self-aggrandizement of teachers and general emptiness of students is still true today. It still drives many away from college and turns many more slightly insane.

Franny and Zooey aren't lovable - they are much too self-conscious for that. But at least they don't seem to make up excuses for themselves. In a way, they know they are privileged and detest the way they can't just blend with the crowd of Ivy league nitwits. They are both exceptionally clear-eyed about human nature - which, no matter what anybody says, is not, necessarily, a good thing. They are fiercely critical and more than a little judgemental - also, of their own motivations.

You probably wouldn't want neither of them as friends but you end up wishing them well. For Franny and Zooey, despite their background and upbringing (or precisely because of it), are the kind of young people you could imagine being institutionalized a few years down the road.

It can be argued that right beside Holden Caufield they are J. D. Salinger's closest alter egos. They are a little bit mad and a little bit sad. Sometimes they talk like insufferable snobs and sometimes they're right on the money. Just to be on the safe side we best keep a couple of them around. Preppy kids keepin' it real, and all that.

"I don't think it would have all gotten me quite so down if just once in a while - there was at least some polite little perfunctory implication that knowledge should lead to wisdom, and that if it doesn't, it's just a disgusting waste of time!"

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

"The Wars" - Timothy Findley

The War to end all Wars - more than dead, almost as many missing, injured.

Findley's 1977 "The Wars" is the story of a nineteen year old canadian, Robert Ross, who enlists in 1915 to fight in World War I, and is driven, partly through his own character and partly as a response to the bloodshed and cruelty he witnesses, to perform an act of both madness and beauty.

The story is told by an unnamed historian, who relies on photographs, letters documents and interviews in order to trace Robert's story from his childhood in Canada to his death.

Findley has been described as a great "teller of tales" but to my mind his strength lies elsewhere. It is not that his stories are imaginative, which they are - rather, they make up a whole world into which the reader dives, retaining not an ounce of disbelief. Just as in "Pilgrim" written 22 years later, "The Wars" is an entrancing book, which kept me mesmerized for the two days it took to read it.

Once in it, you can barely stand to look up from its pages, and while reading it you loose all sense of being a reader - you are someone who has fainted, or has fallen into a particularly heavy nap, and been transported, not into a dream world, but into a reality so far hidden from your personal knowledge, that is nevertheless, undeniably true.

Cleverly weaving his descriptions into the action, Findley never allows you to slip from his grasp. "The Wars" has no descriptive features that aren't part of the narrative - everything you see, hear and smell is rendered through your different narrators with the natural rhythm of life and death.

You go down the steps to the hold of the S.S. Massanabie with Ross and smell the stench of hundreds of horses kept frightened in their own filth, with not a single porthole opened for fresh air, you see the only light provided by an oil lamp and feel the heaving of the ship. Your own revulsion is indistinguishable from the boy's as he is required for the first time in his life to kill a living being, a horse that has fallen and broken his leg, and you see the white of the horse's eyes as he stares with confusion and pain at his murderer.

It is in the trenches, where Robert is kept from the front line through his officer status, that the madness of war quickly starts to pour through: some of the boys go mad, some turn into cruel beings, most simply die.

Then there is Rodwell, a man who does the unthinkable: in the middle of the carnage he collects small wounded animals, birds, rabbits, hedgehogs, toads and nurses them in a makeshift hospital under his bunk bed. His suicide, after he is forced to watch the torture of a cat by his comrades in arms, and the letter he leaves Robert to deliver his daughter, provide the emotional climax of "The Wars".

After a leave of absence in England, Robert goes back to the front and the events precipitate: he is raped by fellow officers whose identities he will never know and from there on we feel him slowly retreating into his own mind. He is constantly, inexplicably, spared while men all around him are killed during attacks.

It is in the aftermath of one such attack that Robert, accompanied solely by a black mare and a dog he has found among the debris, sets loose one hundred and fifty horses trapped into a burning train. He means to save them, and stables them nearby, but the army is, of course, in pursuit of the young traitor.

The horses end up burned alive and we are denied the relief of seeing Robert go down in martyrdom with them. He would survive, horribly disfigured, to be court marshaled and die at 26.

"Someone once said to Clive: do you think we will ever be forgiven for what we've done? They meant their generation and the war and what the war had done to civilization. Clive said something I've never forgotten. He said: I doubt we'll ever be forgiven. All I hope is - they'll remember we were human beings."

During his months on the front Robert Ross killed three people: inadvertently, a german soldier who was assisting his escape, a senior officer who prevented him from saving a herd as their stable was under attack, and a soldier who tried to stop him as he made his final ride surrounded by 150 free horses.

Monday, October 08, 2007

"Joe Gould's Secret" - Joseph Mitchell

"Joe Gould's Secret" is made of two different articles, both published in The New Yorker about a down-and-out poet and would be historian, resident bohemian at several Greenwich Village diners and bars, Joseph Ferdinand Gould.

The first, shorter piece is dated 1942. Joseph Mitchell was writing profiles of New Yorkers with an eye toward the excentric and unusual and Gould seemed a natural fit. He had been traipsing around the Village for years, much of the time drunk, gathering an informal circle of friends (and some enemies) among the more famous poets and artists of the neighborhood, whose hand-outs kept him just one step ahead of homelessness and hunger.

The interesting bit of curio about Gould was his monumental work in progress: a massive Oral History (of the world) in which the conversations of everyday people (and some famous ones) where noted down in grammar school writing pads.

"Professor Seagull" is funny and tragic, but it is the second, lengthier "Joe Gould's Secret" written twenty-two years after, that brings Gould and Mitchell's characters into focus while allowing a very rare glimpse into the backstage of journalism. It is here that we learn what happened after, the way that life muddied the carefully written words of the author.

Gould became a frequent and with the months passing, unwelcome, visitor of Mitchell's office almost every week. His verbosity would not be stopped and the journalist, ever the southern gentleman, becomes an unwitting confidant of every detail of Joe Gould's life story.

For, putting the ambition of his Oral History aside (of which Mitchell never saw a single page during the first assignment), it is his own life that seems to capture Gould's every waking thought: the son of a wealthy and puritan New England family, he was unable to fulfill his father's expectations but, though he left home at a young age, never solved his heartbreaking relationship with his parents.

The reader sharply feels Mitchell's discomfort of being inconvenienced by the mostly drunk, repetitive Gould to the point that he tries, quite frantically, to get a publisher interested in the Oral History, seeing it as the only means of getting the old man off his back.

It is Mitchell's stepping forward in "Joe Gould's Secret" that makes this book such a treasure: we witness his southern traits of politeness, loyalty and honour as they shape this remarkably honest chronicle of what came after the final period. The reader empathizes with his frustration, suspicion, anger and finally the respect he develops toward the tragic Gould.

If the Oral History is but a figment of Gould's alcoholic and mentally ill mind, is it less remarkable just because he failed to put the words on paper? Is the absolute truth the most ethical course of action where dignity and respect are concerned? These are the questions Mitchell grappled with for decades before setting down to write "Joe Gould's Secret" - his answer is to look the reader straight in the eye and tell a sad story that is not only a beautiful epitaph to his subject, but also a testament of undying admiration to the city of New York, its fools and holymen.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

"The Enchanted April" - Elizabeth Von Arnim

Can our surroundings influence our nature? The classic "The Enchanted April" offers a resounding positive answer.

Lotty, Rose, Caroline and Mrs Fisher are four strangers brought together by the promise of a newspaper advertisement:

"To Those who Appreciate Wistaria and Sunshine.
Small mediaeval Italian Castle on the shores of the Mediterranean to be Let Furnished for the month of April. Necessary servants remain. Z, Box 1000, The Times."

The Londoners suffer from neglect at the hands of their husbands and themselves: While Lotty stifles in the day-to-day duties as a middle-class housewife, Caroline suffocates in the glitter of the jet-set and Rose forces herself into a life of churchgoing piety to atone for the perceived sins of her husband; Mrs Fisher seems to have settled herself among dead friends, gloomily waiting her turn, a true Victorian.

San Salvatore, inundated with fragrant and colourful blooms, with its view of the sea and italian food will change these women forever - in fact, when they finally arrive, it will also change their husbands and lovers.

As the Von Arnim puts it, the castle forces its inhabitants into the opposite of a vicious circle - a virtuous one - where everyone is nice and so everyone feels well, and predisposed to niceties.

I was sad at how Lotty's character, which won me from the first page, seemed to disappear as the action moves to San Salvatore, and yet it makes complete sense. For she in fact dissolves into the italian garden, woods and water, and as soon as she sets foot on the path to the castle is at one with it. It is the other three who will take some time to ripen in the sun and abandon the constraints of politeness, haughtiness and distrust, the various grey London coats in which they hide their fear of life, death and love.

As Lotty puts it in the very beginning:
"What we both need is a holiday."

Monday, October 01, 2007

"Lost & Found" - Jacqueline Sheehan

You're right. It was the cover that did it. But how could anyone resist?

I didn't have high expectations for "Lost & Found". In fact, the sweetness of the cover made me anticipate a watered down novel, targeted at busy women in need of a weekend book.

In fact, Jacqueline Sheehan's was surprisingly profound.

The synopsis might suggest light-lit (of which there is nothing wrong with, per se) but the writer's eye for character detail delivers a lot more.

Rocky is a 38 year-old psychologist who is delivered a terrible blow: her husband dies of a heart attack and she, a trained lifeguard, is unable to revive him through CPR.
Unable to slip quietly into widowhood, she leaves her old life behind and moves to a small island where she takes up a post as animal control warden, not disclosing to anyone her past occupation and tragedy.
Enter a big black lab, with a serious arrow injury and in serious need of a foster home.
Here's where I thought it would get sappy - dog saves girl through undying love etc.
But even though Lloyd the dog ends up saving a lot of characters, Sheehan never gets sickly sweet.
Instead we are treated to a valuable insight into the hearts and minds of the female characters. And between Rocky's panic attacks, her teenage neighbour's anorexia and her older girlfriend's fear of death we get a whole spectrum of women's complicated relationships with themselves, women and men, their bodies and food.
That Sheehan is a psychotherapist can only have helped with these portrayals, which are, to my mind the strong suit of "Lost & Found".
The mystery that surrounds Lloyd's injury, the thriller in which it develops, Rocky's interest in archery, and the fumbling way in which she develops a love interest are also very well achieved - but they are the icing in this very chocolaty, perfect comfort reading with a twist book.