Book Review: Of Things Gone Astray by Janina Matthewson

21805265On a seemingly normal morning in London, a group of people all lose something dear to them, something dear but peculiar: the front of their house, their piano keys, their sense of direction, their place of work.

Meanwhile, Jake, a young boy whose father brings him to London following his mother’s sudden death, finds himself strangely attracted to other people’s lost things. But little does he realize that his most valuable possession, his relationship with his father, is slipping away from him.

Rating: 3/10

I think the best thing about this book was the cover. The cover is pretty awesome. Other than that, this book was rather unremarkable. I managed to get through it mainly because it was a short book.

It is quite possible that the copy written for this book (i.e. the synopsis and descriptions) played a role in me disliking it. The copy makes it seem that the brunt of the story is Jake and his relationship with his father. It suggests that his story is the one that ties this all together. However, I didn’t see that and that is one thing that this book really needed. The majority of these characters became connected in some way throughout the book, yet these connections were not in any was substantial enough and only a couple of them came back to Jake. Nothing was really tied together in the end, and nothing was explained.

What does Jake have to do with all of these lost things? The synopsis seems to allude to the idea that Jake is the central figure of this story, and at times, the writing itself seemed to indicate that as well, but by the end of the book, we don’t see a connection. It just becomes a book with characters who seem to live rather close to each other (even this isn’t totally clear) who intersect in small ways, but ultimately have nothing to do with each other other than the strange events that occur to them. Even these strange events don’t seem to connect them since the only one that is known to everyone is Mrs. Featherby’s missing wall and possibly Cassie turning into a tree.

My other issue with this book was that everything seemed so unrealistic that it was distracting me. Yes, a woman turns into a tree, a building completely disappears, as does an entire wall of a woman’s house, but these things are happening in our world. The world we know. A world where these things don’t happen. Why is Cassie (tree girl) not surrounded by doctors and scientists the entire time? Why is there by the middle of the book just some crazy arborist who stops by and talks about interesting her plight is? Why hasn’t she been quarantined? A woman is turning into a tree in the middle of a crowded airport! Why is nobody acting accordingly? It was things like this that bothered me throughout the whole book. I understand the fantastical element to the book, but sometimes you have to put a little dose of reality into it.

There is so much potential in this book. If certain things were done differently, it would have been a really intriguing read about loss and how people handle loss in different ways. It could have been a book that examines what people believe to be important, and how they survive when that is completely taken away from them. Yet, we are left with a surface level exploration of loss that we can’t take anything from, that we can’t relate to since the characters are so flat and unrealistic. In a nutshell, this book was disappointing, and while I liked the idea, I did not like the execution.


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