Pulitzer Prize winner and New Yorker staff writer Kathryn Schulz’s first memoir, Lost & Found, is an eloquent meditation inspired by the end of her father’s life and the beginning of the romance that led to her marriage. This probing, multifaceted exploration of two universal phenomena—grief and love—is both a revealing account of defining moments in Schulz’s life and an eloquent map of the pathways connecting them to our shared human experience.
In the first section of the book, Schulz’s reflections on the profound grief provoked by the peaceful passing of the man she describes as “part Socrates, part Tevye,” at the end of a decade of slowly failing health, illuminate the “essential, avaricious nature of loss.” She examines the complexity and uniqueness of each person’s bereavement, giving the lie to clichés like “moving on” and “closure” that are offered to comfort those in mourning. “Everything felt fragile, everything felt vulnerable,” she observes; “the idea of loss pressed in all around me, like a hidden order to existence that emerged only in the presence of grief.”
The poignancy of these reminiscences is more than balanced by the exuberant account of Schulz’s love affair with C. in the second section of the book. Though C. is a fellow writer, she is also a woman whose cultural roots—as a devout Lutheran from Maryland’s Eastern Shore—are so different from Schulz’s—a nonpracticing Jew from Cleveland—that Mars and Venus can barely encompass them. The affectionately candid story of their instantaneous attachment and deepening relationship allows Schulz to probe some of the ineffable mysteries of human attraction and ponder the wild improbability that two people ever find each other and fall in love.
Concluding her memoir with a section entitled “And,” Schulz skillfully melds the two profound subjects that animate her story, attempting to reconcile herself to an undeniable reality at the heart of life’s beauty and pain: our limitless capacity to love, undiminished by the inescapable knowledge that one day every one of us will inevitably lose all we cherish. “Of every kind of ‘and’ that we experience,” she writes, “I find this one the most acute—the awareness that our love, in all its many forms, is bound inseparably to our grief.”
Discoursing knowledgeably and often with good humor on subjects that include etymology, poetry, natural history, psychology and more, Schulz displays a capacious intelligence matched only by her boundless curiosity and insight. Lost & Found is a beautiful, life-affirming book that passionately embraces some of the deepest questions of human existence in the fullness of their sorrow and joy.