Walter Lavender Jr. is a master of finding. A wearer of high-tops. A maker of croissants. A son keeping vigil, twelve years counting. But he wouldn’t be able to tell you. Silenced by his motor speech disorder, Walter’s life gets lonely. Fortunately, he has The Lavenders—his mother’s enchanted dessert shop, where marzipan dragons breathe actual fire. He also has a knack for tracking down any missing thing—except for his lost father. So when the Book at the root of the bakery’s magic vanishes, Walter, accompanied by his overweight golden retriever, journeys through New York City to find it—along the way encountering an unforgettable cast of lost souls. Steeped in nostalgic wonder, The Luster of Lost Things explores the depths of our capacity for kindness and our ability to heal. A lyrical meditation on why we become lost and how we are found, from the bright, broken heart of a boy who knows where to look for everyone but himself.
This book was absolutely stunning, magical, and whimsical. I adored it! This is the story of a thirteen year old boy, Walter Lavender, Jr. He has a motor speech disorder. This disorder causes him to rarely speak out loud, for he is afraid of his words coming out jumbled and being made fun of for it. He keeps a notebook where he writes down all his perceptions of the world and the people around him. This book is not told by saying, rather than by perceiving. We see and notice everything Walter Jr. sees in his mind’s eye. It is quite a unique take on a character point of view. I loved getting the insight of someone with a speech disorder. They pick up so much more detail with the world than the average person; always looking and paying attention to the world around them. Walter Jr. can speak when he wants to, usually short, practiced sentences.
My whole life, my mouth had been shut and my eyes wide open, and the deeper and darker my silence became, the more I began to sense outside of it–traces of light, shifts in matter, changing undercurrents.”
-Sophie Chen Keller, The Luster of Lost Things
Walter Jr. has a knack for finding lost things. He lives in New York City, so when he sees a sign for a lost item, he contacts the person and helps them find their lost thing. He has solved every case he has ever taken up; all besides his own case. When he was just a baby in the womb of his mother’s belly, his father, Walter Lavender Sr., disappeared while co-piloting a flight. Ever since Walter Jr. realized he had a knack for finding things, he made it his goal in life to find his father and bring him home.
Walter Jr.’s mother, Lucy, owns a magical dessert shop, where the desserts actually come alive. Each dessert has a distinct personality of its own. The shop hasn’t always been magical though. One wintry night, a woman sat outside the shop in the snow with nowhere to go. Lucy invited her in for the night to keep warm. The next morning when her and Walter Jr. awoke, the woman was gone but she had left a book behind. The book was the story of the woman’s life, in drawings, and it ended with the kindness of Lucy letting her into the shop to keep warm. Ever since that book was left, the dessert shop became enchanted, the desserts came alive, and people started noticing the shop.
One day, the book goes missing, along with the magic. The desserts were no longer alive and people stopped coming in. Lucy and Walter Jr. were on the verge of losing the shop forever. Walter Jr. being a professional in finding lost things, goes out into the city, with his best friend and dog, Milton, to find the missing book. What he finds along his journey is much more than a missing book. It is a journey of finding the confidence in himself to do what he wants most in the world, to form a connection with others rather than just observing. He finds the confidence in himself to speak up rather than shut himself inwards. He finds new friends and discovers that an act of kindness can make a difference in a person’s life. This is truly a beautiful read.
“I feel like I have been walking toward this moment, the final movement of some opus of existence in which I already experienced love and fear and anger and loneliness, and along the way I found courage and vulnerability and connection and conviction.”
-Sophie Chen Keller, The Luster of Lost Things
I recommend this book to readers who enjoy stories with great character development or like character-driven stories. I also recommend it to anyone who loves the genre magical realism. I rate this book 4 out of 5 stars!
Thank you to Penguin’s First to Read program for an advanced copy of this book in return for an honest review.