The Red Couch: Once Was Lost Introduction



Summer makes me think of beach reads and beach reads often have me turning in the direction of YA. There are plenty of articles out there arguing why you should or shouldn’t read Young Adult (YA) fiction. I’m firmly in the camp who believes you should read whatever gives you enjoyment or from which you can learn.

YA is by no means synonymous with all things fluffy and frivolous. Think of the themes evoked in Harry Potter and The Hunger Games, for instance. Grief and loss, consumerism, good vs evil, the role of family. YA can cover it all.

Case in point: this month’s selection Once Was Lost by Sara Zarr. Sam is 15 and she’s a normal teen in so many ways. And yet she’s also a pastor’s kid. Her mom is in rehab for alcoholism and a young girl from church was abducted. In the middle of it all is Sam’s sense of having nothing and no one to hold on to, not even God.

I don’t know about you but I had my fair share of doubts when I was growing up. Who am I kidding? I have my fair share of doubts now!

I think back to my own teen years and a wave of angst and doubt and insecurity washes over me. I was so desperate to know I belonged, desperate to know if God was real, desperate for people to care.

And even though I did have people in my life who cared and pointed me toward God, some things I had to figure out on my own. In some ways, reading Once Was Lost was like flipping through my old diary. Though our circumstances were entirely different, the universal themes rang true.

I related and I’m pretty sure you will, too.

If you’re not yet convinced, here’s the book description on Amazon:

Samara Taylor used to believe in miracles. She used to believe in a lot of things.

When your father’s a pastor, it’s hard not to buy in to the idea of the perfect family, a loving God, and amazing grace. But lately, Sam has a lot of reasons to doubt. Her mother lands in rehab after a DUI and her father seems more interested in his congregation than his family. When a young girl in her small town is kidnapped, the local tragedy overlaps with Sam’s personal one, and the already worn thread of faith holding her together begins to unravel.

In her third novel, acclaimed author Sara Zarr examines the coexistence of affliction and hope, and what happens when everything you thought you believed–about God, your family, and yourself–is transformed.

As you read Sam’s story, consider how you would respond to her circumstances. Think about what your faith was made up of “then” vs now. Ponder what gets you through difficult times. The answers might surprise you.

This month we have two treats planned for you. First, we’ll be sharing an interview with the author Sara Zarr on Wednesday, Aug. 26. Second, instead of a discussion post, we’ll discuss Once Was Lost in our Facebook group. You can RSVP here or just plan to show up Sunday, Aug. 30 at 6pm PST/8pm CDT/9pm EST.

September’s book is The Alchemist by Paulo Coehlo.

Are you reading Once Was Lost with us? Share your thoughts so far in the comments.

Disclosure: Amazon Affiliate links included in this post.  If you click through to Amazon, any purchase you make supports this site.

Leigh Kramer
Leigh Kramer is on a quest; she’s living life on purpose. Her to-do list might look something like this: leave life in the Midwest for Nashville, Tennessee, followed by San Francisco, quit steady job as a social worker to chase her dreams of writing, suck the marrow out of life’s in-between places and revel in the now at every turn. Leigh shares this journey through words of transparency, heart, and just a dash of pluck at and on Twitter at @hopefulleigh.
Leigh Kramer

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  1. Jennice says:

    BTW, Leigh I added you on Goodreads after I read your post on how to read 1000 books. I would have sent you a message explaining that, but you can’t receive messages before someone is your friend.

  2. Jennice says:

    MIne finalyy arrived at the library and I’m already halfway through

  3. I’m so looking forward to reading this book Leigh! 🙂 And I’m with you – we should read what we enjoy and what helps us learn – YES! 🙂 I’ve been pleasantly surprised in the past few years, that some of my favorite fiction reads have been YA books. (And I can’t forget that my FAVORITE author Madeleine L’Engle’s “A Wrinkle In Time” is one of the best books evah. 🙂 Going to check this one out now. Thanks for a wonderful intro, as always!

  4. So great you’re doing Sara’s book. She’s a fabulous writer and friend. She gave me much hope about the writing life. She also has a podcast called This Creative Life if anyone’s interested.

  5. BTW, according to the Queens Library the book also goes by the name of What We Lost. Just in case you can’t find it under Once Was Lost

  6. I’m requesting it from the library as we speak!

  7. I devoured it in two afternoons! I love books like this that are grimy with real life and yet somehow infuse you with hope by the end.

  8. I’ve started it! Got it from the library even … but got a little sidetracked by “Silence.” 🙂

  9. Sandy Hay says:

    I’ve been reading YA lit for years. If for no other reason than to recommend to my grandchildren (but really they’re for me;) It started by reading ALL of Madeleine L’Engles’ books one summer. Ad the Narnia series. And then I moved on to Kathryn Paterson and Cynthia Voight, etc etc etc . Now Natalie, age 14, asks me to read her books too. And we have great chats about them. I want to know what the younger generation is struggling with, I need to know this. Grandma’s are safe to talk to. And I know this because I had one too. 🙂

    • That’s so great, Sandy! I bet your grandkids adore you.

    • Sandy, I love this! I’m still reading out loud to my 13 year old — Lord of the Rings, James Herriot, lots of fun books that we love. It’s a great way to just spend time together doing the C.S. Lewis definition of friendship: side by side looking at something together. I want to do the same thing with my grandson, so I’m already reading to him!

  10. Haven’t started reading yet, but eager to begin. I was “hooked” into YA fiction by Madeleine L’Engle’s writing, and I agree with you that the themes covered by the truly excellent writers are relevant to young and old.

    • It’s so funny- I don’t think of L’Engle as YA. The Time Quintet is ageless in my mind, just like the Narnia Chronicles. Mark of excellent writing, I suppose!


  1. […] learn more about Once Was Lost, read the introductory post. If you haven’t had a chance to read it yet, there’s still time! A live discussion will […]

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