Wayward Children, #8: Lost in the Moment and Found
By: Seanan McGuire
Published: January 10, 2023
They say this is the Land Where the Lost Things Go, and that it is a nexus of worlds, of which there are a number beyond counting. It pulls all lost things to it, and that includes the doors, which would normally wander freely. They come here when they have no children to call to them, taking a time to rest and recover themselves, (10: In a Time of Mists and Moths).
One of the most enjoyable things about a book (or any) series is how as the series continues, some elements within the series (i.e. characters, locations, etc.,) either is mentioned over and over to where it is a reoccurrence, or is hinted as a plot device and/or as an element of foreshadowing. For example, a conversation between “strangers” could mean nothing at the moment, but later on in the series—further in the narrative—those “strangers” will meet up again as allies, foes, or companions. In Lost in the Moment and Found—the latest book in the Hugo Award Winning Wayward Children series by Seanan McGuire—we follow a protagonist who not only “connects” the books of the past with the books of the present, but also serves as an unintentional nexus to the (still incomplete) Compass.
The protagonist in this narrative is Antoinette Ricci, called “Antsy.” We first met Antsy in the previous book—Where the Drowned Girls Go—where we learned about the type of World she Traveled to, and what she “gained” from her time there. Now, we get Ansty’s backstory and it’s heartbreaking from the first page. Antsy is 5 years-old when her father dies in front of her. When Antsy turns 6, her mother has a new boyfriend—Tyler—who makes Antsy feel extremely uncomfortable, whom her mother marries a very short time later. Then, Antsy’s mother is expecting a baby and Tyler begins to put a wedge between mother and daughter, and it works. Antsy—as young as she is—knows Tyler isn’t trying to get rid of her, he is trying to isolate her for his disturbing appetites. Sadly, it works, which forces a 7-year-old Antsy to run away from home in the middle of the night. She wanders the streets in search of a phone, but when she passes by what looks like a thrift store, Antsy sees the words: “Be Sure” above the door. The 7-year-old “was sure she couldn’t go home,” (4: Sometimes Things Misplace Themselves). Once inside, Antsy meets Hudson—a talking magpie who is the shop’s accountant—and Vineta—an older woman who knows about the store—who takes Antsy on as an apprentice and tells her (almost) everything about the store. One could argue the store is a character because it knows when its workers need something from another part of itself, it knows how to help the customers who visit, and it “services” any Doors that “stop by” as well. All of the secondary characters are “adults,” which present the (false, yet realistic) pretense that Antsy is the character who will develop the most in this narrative. Yes, Antsy does grow as a character—in more ways than one—but, she is NOT the only complex character in this story. The store is complex, too; but, the complexity surrounding the store is one thing, a child experiencing so many traumatic events within a short time is another one.
There are 2 plots in this story. The first plot focuses on Antsy as she lives through the beginning of the end of her childhood. Antsy is 5 years-old when her father dies; and, within the next 2 years, Antsy’s mother gets a boyfriend—who she marries within a year, she becomes a big sister, she and her mother’s family move to a new neighborhood, and Antsy’s mother’s husband presents his true self to her. She runs away from home with the intent of calling her paternal grandmother, and finds herself in the Land Where the Lost Things Go, where she resides and works at for the next 2 years. The second plot looks into the World that is a nexus for all of the other Worlds, (Could this World be at the “center” of the Compass the characters from Every Heart a Doorway, Beneath the Sugar Sky, and Come Tumbling Down have been working on?). The Land Where the Lost Things Go is a shop for lost things (living and non-living); not to mention, several Doors end up there, too. For Antsy (and for the audience) this is an incredible experience; yet, for Vineta and for Hudson, this is a daily occurrence, and they take the opportunity to visit the Worlds. The shop itself is unique, and it makes you wonder how the Doors know about this place, and why it allows the workers of the shop to go through those Doors. There is a subplot in this story. It is a theme we’ve read in all of the entries in this series. Every Traveler who has gone through a Door returns with an ability which represents the World they visited. However, something else is lost during this “exchange” as a “cost of living” in that World for so long and/or for breaking the rules of that World. There are hints to the “costs” Antsy pays while she lives in the shop—she hasn’t figured it out a way to leave it; unfortunately, Antsy is a young child so she doesn’t understand the significance of the cost. The question remains why “that” for payment? This subplot is essential for the plot because it becomes central to the setting.
The narrative of this book is told from Antsy’s point-of-view. And, just like all of the entries in this series which focus on the past, this narrative is presented as the events happened in the past—and told in the past tense. The narrative is presented in 3rd person limited through Antsy’s stream-of-consciousness. It is important to know that Antsy has gone through A LOT in such a short amount of time, and that is presented throughout this narrative, too.
The first thing that needs to be addressed about Seanan McGuire’s style for Lost in the Moment and Found is the “Author’s Note.” As it states, all of the other books in the Wayward Children series (as well as her October Daye series) deal with “heavy themes and childhood traumas.” It is unfortunate the real-life issues these themes and traumas are based on continue to occur throughout our world. While there are resources and advocates available for victims, the sad truth is not everyone knows about them and/or do not have anyone close to them who can help them. The author letting her audience know at the beginning that the protagonist flees the danger is a reassurance the audience needed to know, and they do appreciate it (seriously, Thank You, Seanan)! The next thing everyone should know about the style the author uses for this narrative is the language and the wording used throughout the story. Antsy is 5 years-old when her father dies, 7 years-old when she runs away from home, and then 9 years-old when she returns; those are the ages of a child in elementary/primary school. The narrative is written in a way in which the audience knows the protagonist is a young child (with limited schooling), and won’t forget it. The last thing to know about the author’s style is the other heavy issue mentioned in this story: child labor. In a livestream event, McGuire mentions child labor was the second social issue she highlights in this book. Those who have read this story will understand the unique way the author mentions the cost victims of child sexual abuse and/or child labor have to live with. The mood in this book is false security. All children should be safe in their homes with their families, but that is not the case with all children. Some of the kids who escape harmful households do not find safety at their places of refuge. The tone in this novel is loss, as in loss of innocence. Antsy was able to escape her stepfather, but she will never gain back her way of life from before he entered her, and her mother’s lives. I’m not saying Antsy’s father dying was not traumatic, but her stepfather made sure she was isolated from all who would protect her, including her mother. On a positive note, Rovina Cai’s illustrations are excellent as always. And, I want to give my appreciation to Robert Hunt for the cover art. I want to say he’s done all of the cover art for this series—correct me if I’m wrong—and, he’s mange to design each cover in a way that readers know it’s from the same series while distinguishing all of the Worlds from one another. Amazing!
The appeal for Lost in the Moment and Found have been highly positive. So far, the book has a rating of ~4.5 on Goodreads, and it’s one of Amazon’s Picks for Best Science Fiction and Fantasy Books for January 2023! In addition, Wayward Children won the Hugo Award for Best Series; so, you have run out of reasons for waiting to read this series! Fans of the series knew ahead of this book’s publication that this entry was going to be a standalone story of a character’s past experience in their World. The books: Down Among the Sticks and Bones, In an Absent Dream, and Across the Green Grass Fields (as well as the short stories: “Juice Like Wounds,” “In Mercy, Rain,” and “Skeleton Song”) delve into a particular familial and social issue the protagonist(s) are experiencing in our World, which causes their Doors to appear before them. Due to the subject manner in this entry, I’m going to recommend this book to fans of Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher, One Dark Window by Rachel Gillig, The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson, and The Books of Ambha—Empire of Sand and Realm of Ash—by Tasha Suri; I’m going to recommend All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir as well (no, it’s not fantasy—this time—but, the subject manner is similar). Of course, you’ll still have to read Every Heart a Doorway first to understand the dynamics of the series, but I believe this entry is one of the essential books to read in this series so far. With at least 2 more books expected in this series (seriously TorDotCom Publishing?! WE WANT MORE BOOKS IN THIS SERIES!), I don’t believe we’ve heard the last of Antsy and her shop.
Lost in the Moment and Found is the most poignant and the most insightful entry in the Wayward Children series to date. This book is a two-fold cautionary tale reminding readers there are dangers in ALL worlds, magical and non-magical. At the same time, these stories instill in us a reason to be resilient and to persevere as we go through our hardships. Antsy’s story is commendable.
My Rating: Enjoy It (4.5 out of 5).
***If you know of anyone who is suffering at the hands of someone else and you want to help, then please visit The Pixel Project for resources and for information on how to assist the individual(s).***