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What Was Lost

What Was Lost - Catherine O'flynn Kate Meaney is reminiscent of Harriet the Spy and it was easy to like this little 10 year old spy. Her world is a little sad, but she's getting by with things until the threat of a school that she doesn't want to go to looms large. Definitely a dark story with lots of lonely people. The whole darkness of the shopping mall, people working in the dead end jobs at the record store, the security guards. All sad and depressing. But somehow I kept rooting for Lisa and Kurt and Dan and wanting them somehow to escape. And of course wondering what happened to Kate and Teresa and Adrian. O'Flynn does a wonderful job of tying it all together. The whole threatened visits by the regional manager and mystery shoppers are just biting indictments of the retail system. The discussion of the class differences between the shoppers and the employees. It sounds all dark and horrible (and certainly it is), but that's not the way all of it reads. ..."The monkey bars were in the shape of a tubular metal igloo. The metal had rusted in places, and when the wind blew, as it did today, the rushing air found empty screw holes and fissures in the frame and played a sad tune on the pipes. She hung by her knees upside down from the center of the igloo, her hair danging on the red concrete below. Crisps packets and shopping bags blew around the edges of the play area, and the wind carried the smell of boiled vegetables from the flats mixed with an industrial metallic smell from the factories. She was back in the small playground in the shadow of Trafalgar House, and she let her eyes travel down past the entrance door past hundreds of balconies, past scraps of washing, past plastic tractor bikes and rotting kitchen cupboards, past the tangle of aerials, down far below to where white clouds were moving across the pale blue motorway of the sky. If her legs lost their grip she'd plunge for miles and miles and then eventually hit the cushion of a cloud. She watched them motor by and thought about the suspect she'd seen at Green Oaks. Kate spotted him after school on Monday, as soon as she turned the corner and walked toward the banks. She was sure he was the same man who had been sitting there the other day. She hadn't seen him properly them, but she sensed a certain posture and she saw it again now. She had always known she would see something different in the face, and she drew closer she felt a thrill of of recognition as his features became clearer. The man was looking across the children's play area toward the branch of Lloyds Bank. Kate watched discreetly from the doorway of an empty shop. The man looked like he was trying to act normal. Kate recognized the signs; she did it herself whenever she worked surveillance. He sat awkwardly, he looked at his watch, his eyes flicked about; he didn't look blank. Kate walked carefully in a wide arc so that she was positioned on a distant bench behind the man. This was a suspect, and in the place where she had always known one would appear. She was calm because she was ready. She knew now that the hard work would begin. Primarily a lot of surveillance. She needed to piece together a coherent picture of the suspect's plan. Was he working alone? Doubtful, Kate had originally thought: solo bank jobs were rushed, desperate affairs, with no planning. He looked too cool for that. Was this an initial stakeout of the joint, or was the heist near maturity? Kate didn't know, but she felt that these were the early days; she had been watching the banks for so long and had only seen this man once before. The question was, How long did she have?" p.64-65I marked this passage when I was reading and going back to it after completing the book makes it stand out all the more. The edition that I read had some "reader's guide" bits at the end, including a piece titled, "On Writing What Was Lost" by the author. Last paragraph: "Friendships play a central role in What was Lost, and ultimately help steer some of the central characters away from the darkness in their lives. . . The friendships in the book withstand age gaps, disappointments, and even death. What I most wanted to convey was the confidence and fidelity of friends. While the characters may have little or no belief in themselves, it is the faith of their friends that provides their salvation." p.246