Nathan’s review of Lost in the Moment and Found by Seanan McGuire
I have not enjoyed a new entry in the Wayward Children series this much in quite some time. For longtime readers, this is one of McGuire’s standalone origin stories (the even-numbered books in the series) that always make up the strongest entries. For new readers to Wayward Children, this is a standalone novella and requires no previous knowledge of the series to dive in. However, while it is a standalone, I still recommend that you start with at least the first novella (Every Heart a Doorway) to get your bearings a bit, but if you want to start here the only thing you will miss are a few brief easter eggs.
For me this novella is now clearly in the Top 3 of Wayward Children along with Down Among the Sticks and Bones and In An Absent Dream. I am not sure it is better than those earlier books for me (the former would have gotten a 9.5 from me, and the latter was a perfect 10), but fans of those novellas will definitely find a lot to sink their teeth into here.
I use the term “sink your teeth into” and not “enjoy” pretty deliberately here because this is a dark and emotional read. My enjoyment did not come from desire to continue the adventure, but rather the subtle and layered ways that McGuire explored themes related to abandonment, grooming, gaslighting, and generational family trauma. McGuire leaves content information and warnings at the beginning of the novella, but please check content/trigger warnings if any of those are of concern to you.
This Wayward entry follows five-year-old Antsy, whose father passes away suddenly during one of their regular trips to Target. Her entire life is turned upside down as her mother remarries, has another baby, and they move. This beginning part of the book is heartbreaking since as adult readers we can understand what is really going on here, but we watch as young Antsy flails to fully comprehend what is going on around her. The tragedy that McGuire is able to convey while also staying in the head and worldview of a young child is some really amazing character work that only enhances the darkness of what happens and what is to come later in the book. In the process, and in a brief number of pages, McGuire is also able to craft one of the most heinous characters in all of fiction.
To try and avoid getting too much into the plot, Antsy runs away from home and ends up in in a magical thrift store where lost things wind up, run by an elderly woman and a magpie. From there, she explores new worlds, reveals new information about the Doors, and uncovers the secrets of this store of lost things.
There are two issues I have had with prior Wayward Children novellas that Lost in the Moment and Found is able to avoid entirely. The first are the endings. I often find that McGuire’s novellas have a hard time nailing the ending; the finales often come too fast, and McGuire never really adequately has the room to wrap up all of her plotlines, character arcs, and thematic threads. As much as I have enjoyed the Wayward Children series thus far, the endings for the most part have left me a bit cold. I didn’t feel that way at all here. Lost in the Moment and Found has a beautiful and perfectly executed conclusion that wraps up both Antsy and the themes of what it means to be “lost” and “found”. The relative brevity and abruptness of the ending here actually works in the book’s favor (although I cannot get into more details why without heavy spoilers).
The other major upgrade is the depth of worldbuilding. Due to the nature of the novella format, McGuire doesn’t always have the time to fully develop her worlds as she balances all of the other threads. The setting for Lost in the Moment is relatively small and self-contained, and so the unexplored nature of some of the previous volumes isn’t found here. Despite not spending a lot of time there, I still felt like I got to explore so many of the corners, nooks, and crannies of the shop for lost things, even despite the shop’s magical nature of opening up new rooms and aisles based on one’s needs.
Seanan McGuire once again is able to combine the superficial whimsy of fairy tales with a complex exploration of the insidious and traumatic parts of growing and coming of age in horrible circumstances. It makes for a tense and often uncomfortable read, but one that is absolutely worth it as we follow Antsy through her journey. I highly recommend this novella to both long-time Wayward Children fans and to those who have maybe fallen off in the last couple entries.
Concluding Thoughts: A layered examination of childhood trauma and consequences of leaving, this is a top tier Wayward Children novella. This novella avoids many of the issues with some of the more recent entries to the series while also expanding on the mythos of the Doors and Wayward Children universe. A welcome addition for veteran, lapsed, and new fans alike.