People who work at or attend universities seem to make numerous appearances in Amina Gautier’s collection of short stories The Loss of All Lost Things. Is this a problem? No, of course not, and it makes a lot of sense when you discover that Gautier is a professor of creative writing at the University of Miami. Write what you know, right? I’ve heard some authors disagree with that statement (John Irving thinks that piece of advice is silly), but writing within a familiar context helps stories ring true to the reader, and the writer is able to take the plot wherever they like from that base of reality. This is exactly what Gautier did, which culminated in an emotionally striking read.
The title story of the collection is actually linked with another story titled “Lost and Found” which starts off the book. It’s written from the perspective of a young boy who has been kidnapped by a man named ‘Thisman’. You don’t get many details as to where they are or what’s happening to them, but the young (unnamed) boy does mention that he believes his parents are happier without him because their life must be simpler only having to worry about one child rather than two. This sentiment of course broke my heart, right within the first few pages of the collection.
Two stories later is “The Loss of All Lost Things”, which is a continuation of “Lost and Found” but written from the parents’ perspective. Not surprisingly they are devastated, and their marriage is slowly crumbling under the enormous weight of losing one of their children. What I found really interesting about these two stories was the fact that they didn’t come right after the other-why this decision I still wonder? Would it have been too emotionally difficult for the reader to get trapped in this terrible situation for that long? That’s my guess, as it was a welcome respite to read something completely unrelated between these two stories, even if the one in the middle was also a bit maudlin.
This book doesn’t include many laugh out loud moments, in fact, probably none at all. It was however a pleasure to read, mainly because the ideas expressed in it were so smart (not surprising for a professorial author!). For example, “Intersections” describes a professor and his female grad student locked in an extramarital affair, and at one point the young lover remarks how trite their situation seems; how it sounds like something out of a short story. I don’t know why I loved this dialogue so much, but I did find it extremely clever nonetheless, and it also tells me that Gautier doesn’t take herself too seriously, which I
appreciate in any author.
I’ll admit I had never heard of Amina Gautier before I was sent this book, but I loved it so much that I’ll be sure to pick up her next one, whenever that comes along. If you’re looking for an intelligent writer with an absorbing way of storytelling, do be sure and check her out.