Thank you to HarperCollins for providing me with an egalley copy of the book to review.
“Of Things Gone Astray” is a tale that uses the context of lost objects to explore the every-day side of people, the way they interact and go through their lives with their own thoughts, as well as the conflicts they face. The reader follows the stories of several characters, namely Mrs. Featherby, Cassie, Delia, Robert, Marcus, and Jake. There are a few chapters, around ten, which briefly talk about lost objects and give a brief backdrop in regards to who their owner was, the circumstances during which the object was lost, and then provides a kind of reflective look on the person’s life. When it comes to the characters themselves, each one has lost something as well, whether it was an actual, physical loss, like Mrs. Featherby losing a wall of her house, or Delia, who loses her sense of direction. Others go through transformations, such as Cassie who discovers the rather unusual answer as to why she finds herself ‘planted’ in place at the airport. Notable as well is the fact that many of the characters interact with each other, like Mrs. Featherby meeting Robert’s daughter Bonny, who comes to have tea with her, or Delia, who develops a relationship with Anthony, Jake’s father.
After reading the summary I knew this isn’t a book that should be read literally, nor should one look for a logical explanation to the events going on. It’s difficult to imagine someone stealing an entire side wall of a house, so I didn’t expect an answer or solution to that. What I did hope to find was a moving story that held a purpose in it, which would move me and enlighten me about something.
But the problem is that I wasn’t.
World building and character development exists in this story, and is very strong, in fact. However for me it was difficult to find an aspect of the characters that I could grab on to and sympathize. In fact, Cassie was the only character whose situation moved me and I had some kind of reaction to it. She was the only one who felt alive for me, the way she worried about her girlfriend, Floss, who hadn’t arrived at the airport, and the situation she found herself in. But the other characters I read about only on the surface. I didn’t develop much empathy for them and kept wondering “what next?” until I finished the book and was STILL asking myself that question.
The magic of this book didn’t work on me, and I’m still wondering why. It has very strong aspects to it, such as the idea of losing and finding, and the way the characters began to meet each other made me excited, thinking this would be where the deeper layer of the book would be uncovered. But I didn’t feel it. The ending didn’t stick with me much, and left me rather disappointed. It didn’t have to be a “big finish”, out-of-the-park kind of ending, but something that would wrap up the story more. I daresay I tried to find the point of the book, and that never makes for a good reaction after finishing.
I would, however, recommend this book, definitely. In fact, I’m really curious to see what kind of reactions and thoughts people will have after reading this one, to see if there was something that I missed while trying to read between the lines. This book’s magic will work for other readers, it just didn’t for me.