Lost & Found – a luminescent meditation on love and grief
Just as every story of grief is “a reckoning with loss, every love story is a chronicle of discovery,” writes Kathryn Schulz. His luminous memories, lost found, offers readers both. It begins with the death of her father Isaac, a man full of “bluff, benevolence and adoration”, endowed with a brilliant mind and a generous heart. But then he goes on to describe how Schulz met and fell in love with the woman who eventually became his wife, here referred to as “C”.
And while we might be inclined to view these two experiences as polar opposites, in this deft, itinerant and elegantly written work – which grew out of his 2017 article “Losing Streak” – Schulz skillfully illustrates how “inseparably” the love and heartbreak are tied together. “He had a prodigious mind, a panoptic curiosity and an ability, in the face of problems of all kinds, to distinguish what was irrelevant from what mattered as quickly as a slot machine separates pennies from quarters”, writes Schulz with admiration about his father. at the beginning of the book.
Obviously, the apple didn’t fall too far from the tree. What her daughter, a Pulitzer Prize-winning New York editor, also possesses is an incredible ability to make everything relevant. From etymology to philosophy, via Elizabeth Bishop, CS Lewis, The Wonderful Wizard of Ozmythology, astrology and a brief history of the world, his questions radiate outwards.
Schulz begins with the specificity of her own experience, but the book quickly becomes a discussion of the larger existential reckoning we each must make with impermanence, both of our own existence and that of the people we love. “The first problem we have with love is how to find it,” Schulz writes. “But the most persistent problem in love, which is also the most persistent problem in life, is how to live with the fact that we are going to lose it.”
Cynics might find the chatter with which she gets lyrical about her worship of C a little too serious. But seldom do we come across writings that come from such a solid foundation of love and happiness as that described in lost found. “It’s a cliché about writers that we come from unhappy families,” Schulz says. She and C were raised in loving, happy homes, and their love story is pleasantly frictionless. Likewise, the death of Isaac – who died “peacefully, at seventy-four years old”, surrounded by his loved ones – was, his daughter explains, very “do not a tragedy”.
Yet, as anyone who’s ever fallen in love knows, the experience is always singular — what Schulz describes as “the private story of an extraordinary discovery.” And no matter how peacefully a loved one leaves this world, the depth of grief that ensues is always unimaginable. “His absence is total,” is how she vividly describes the consequences of Isaac’s death; “Where he was, there is nothing.
Through it all, however, Schulz is sensitive to the extraordinary in the ordinary. “What an amazing thing it is to find someone. The loss can alter our sense of scale, reminding us that the world is hugely big while we are incredibly tiny. But find does the same thing; the only difference is that it amazes us rather than despairs. lost found is itself a marvel of meditation. It left me moved, inspired and ultimately thrilled.
Lost found: a memoir by Kathryn Schulz Picador £14.99 / Random house $27, 256 pages
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