Once Was Lost Summary
by Sara Zarr

Start Your Free Trial


Fifteen-year-old Samara Taylor has been raised in the secure environs of Pineview Community Church. As "the pastor's kid," she had always thought that once she entered high school, her faith would "come alive," blossoming in the atmosphere of "understanding and friendship and spiritual bonding" of her youth group community. Things have not turned out that way, though, and instead, Sam is awash in a sea of isolation and doubt. Her mom has crumpled beneath the pressure of maintaining the image of the perfect wife for her pastor husband, and is being treated for alcoholism in a rehabilitation facility. Her father, the epitome of wisdom and strength for his congregation, is clueless when it comes to ministering to the needs of his own family. Events come to a crisis for Sam when Jody Shaw, a thirteen-year-old member of the church youth group, disappears without a trace. The world as Sam knows it is turned upside down, the sleepy town of Pineview is thrown into the national spotlight in the worst of ways, and Sam's unexpected new friendship with Jody's brother Nick comes under fire when, in the absence of any real leads, he is cast under the shadow of suspicion in his sister's apparent abduction. Sam observes the irony of the fact that her mom who is in rehab is a better parent than her pastor father, who besides being emotionally unavailable to his wife and daughter, inconceivably seems to be developing an inappropriate relationship with the church's youth leader, Erin. Overwhelmed by all the suffering and brokenness around her, Sam cannot understand why God, if he even exists, "doesn't care, or doesn't do anything to stop it."

Download Once Was Lost Study Guide

Subscribe Now

Sam wants desperately to believe in the power of love, in the innocence of Nick, in God, and in her family. When things seem as though they cannot get any worse, she does, in fact, experience an epiphany. At the height of her longing, she...

(The entire section is 481 words.)