FeaturedHistorical Mysteries

Lost, Stolen or Strayed: A Most Unreliable Memoir


Loved it! 😍

Mother and son, the releasing of secrets, the concealment of others. A book filled with relatable, likeable characters and their struggles.

I’ve just spent the day in the heads and hearts of Matthew and his mother, Ruth, and although it was sometimes a dark place, I find myself already missing them as I finish.

The story of Ruth and her family is told through the view in two diaries, hers and her son Matthew’s. The changing times are very clear as the author sites their lives in moments of history — the nuclear disarmament protests in the UK, the Kennedy assassination, the 9/11 attack, the wars. As the time goes on, the two diaries converge and the stories of mother and son clarify and spiral together.

Ruth has severe mental illness, which she manages with varying success. The portrayal of this is neither drastic nor sentimental; it is treated with Ruth’s self-deprecating humour and tolerance from her family. Her life parallels that of many women of her time — smart and gifted, squashed under kids and punished for steps at independence. Ruth keeps carrying on, going through each day as best she can, through jobs and dreams, hurt and abandonment, hospitalization and alcoholism.

This sounds grim, but the author keeps us wanting the best for Ruth, eager to see what next she writes in her diary.

Much of this has to do with the portrayal of her son Matthew, who has spent his life stepping in to help his mother out. His love for her is palpable, as is the love he has for his wife and baby girl. He’d almost be too sweet except for the running ascetic commentary in his diary, and his unfortunate quest for the answers to his mother’s secret.

I am endlessly impressed that mother and son both refer to “Cold Comfort Farm” and Aunt Ada Doom in their diaries. Both characters seem well- and diversely read, and this made me like them even better. But how reliable are Ruth’s memories? What is she hiding?

I also enjoyed this story for the (recent) historical context, and all the details of London and New York City. The characters love these places and they reminded me I love them, too.

In all, this is a warm and rewarding read, well worth the time. Loses one star because the author hints that there may be more secrets in Ruth’s life and then leaves us with the one, and also because Matthew is so good. I’m not sure if I’m just being cynical or am just jealous of his wife!

So much to smile at in this book, so many “feels”, as they say. Just read it. You’ll be glad you did. And look out for more work by this author.

Reviewed by

An avid reader of all genres except romance. Published writer of humour and short fiction/non-fiction. Currently working on a historical fiction novel set in Kingston, ON. My first novel, Recycled Virgin, is out now on multiple platforms. Developmental Editor, focusing on self-published authors.

About the author

I spend most of my time in the abyss between what we do/say/think. Sometimes it's wretched and agonizing, but if you don't laugh...I live in the US, but am British. I've lived here half my life and am writing screenplays and sharing my house with my family, four dogs and four cats. view profile

Published on September 30, 2020

70000 words

Contains mild explicit content ⚠️

Genre: Historical Mysteries

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