By Simran Gupta
If you are interested in the lines between fantasy and reality, a past that comes back to haunt us, or simply eerie books that leave you shivering at night, Moira Fowley-Doyle’s newest young adult novel, Spellbook of the Lost and Found is your next read. This is her second novel, and even though her first one was beautiful, this one was somehow even stronger and more compelling than the debut.
The story follows two groups of people: Laurel, Ash, and Holly, through the pages of Laurel’s diary; and Olive, Rose, Rowan, Ivy, and Hazel, told from Olive’s point of view. Olive and Rose are best friends whose entire world changes the morning after an annual town party. Rowan, Hazel, and Ivy are hiding from their alcoholic mother and are lost in more ways than one. Laurel, Ash and Holly are best friends whose dynamic is forever changed after the same annual town party.
There is one thing linking these three groups of people: The Spellbook of the Lost and Found. In it, Laurel and Olive find a spell to regain lost things from their lives, but it comes with a warning: they must be prepared to sacrifice something for each thing found. They must be sure the spell is worth it, must consider what they can and cannot live without, or afford to lose. Needless to say, both Laurel’s and Olive’s friends perform the spell. This has tangible and intangible consequences for everyone involved.
Let me first say how beautiful the writing is. It is eerie and unsettling, rich in description and adept at evoking emotion from whoever reads it. As I read more and more the accounts of things lost and found, the casting of the spell, the descriptions of the storm and various lost souls, I found myself shivering and looking over my shoulder. There were times I had to put the book down and take some deep breaths before picking it back up, or go back and re-read certain sections because of how much my head was spinning from the detail and pace of the storytelling. The story’s setting is a sleepy town in Ireland, not quite suburb but not quite rural, and wow is Fowley-Doyle so adept at using this setting to enhance her story.
Per usual, the story blurs the line between real and fantasy, between concrete truth and imagination. There are spells and ghosts, an ageless pub owner and a dangerously beautiful boy. We see how relationships can become destructive, and how past mistakes affect future generations. And yet, not everything about this story is ethereal. There are very real issues of assault, body image, and questions of family and belonging. There are questions of love and intimacy, and these are all things that young adults and also adults struggle with throughout their lives.
Once again, Moira Fowley-Doyle has created a masterpiece, consisting of images, questions, and emotions that will have you questioning everything until you reach the last page.