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Friday, January 17, 2014

What We've Lost Is Nothing: A Novel

We have all, at one time or another, felt our privacy be violated. That is what drew me to the Rachel Louise Snyder's What We've Lost is Nothing.

A series of break-in's occur all across Ilios Lane in the suburbs of Chicago. A myriad of items were stolen, a few from some and more from others. All the residents are on edge, and all are dealing with losing their sense of safety and security. The 24 hours following the robberies find tensions at their highest. Is it the punk kids who live across the street, or does one resident suspect them because of their ethnicity? Does one family's daughter have anything to do with it--or was she simply skipping school in teenage rebellion? Why did the neighbor across the street lie about being out of town? Will the uncertainty eat at the residents?

This was an interesting book, and one that had a big desire to explore race relations in a neighborhood that purposefully sought out a diverse population. Peppered with narrative, emails, and conversations, this novel explores what happens when we lose our sense of comfort and safety, and the lengths to which we will go to protect our families from threats, real or perceived. This novel wanted to dive deep into these topics, but I felt it only touched the surface of its desire. There is a storyline with the young daughter who skipped school the day of the robberies and was home when the intruders were there; I wish that Snyder had developed the character more along the lines of how this event affected her and less on the relationship she has with the school "bad boy." I felt the exploration was right there with her interaction with her best friend, a young girl of Cambodian descent that lives across the street with her immigrant parents, but I would have liked it to be more integrated with the story and less about the relationship.

There was a lesson to be learned from this novel. "What we've lost is nothing," becomes the refrain of the neighbors when they finally accept that it's just stuff, that no one was hurt and that makes them lucky. It is a notion to take with us as we move through our lives. Some of us have more than others, and some of us have less than that. If our worldview takes in the notion that losing possessions is much more palatable than losing our lives, we might be able to find peace in what we do.

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