Since I enjoyed reading The Girl Next Door and Wes was kind enough to send me more than one Jack Ketchum novel, I figured I would continue the trend and read The Lost. It saddens me to say this, but I was fairly disappointed with the novel, and it took me a week to get through as opposed to the 4-5 hours it took me to read The Girl Next Door.
The Lost was entertaining, sure, but it felt more like a lumbering dinosaur, smashing its way through the woods in the dark, than the bullet to the chest that I expected. The story started off excellent. A crazy guy walks up to a stranger’s campsite and shoots two people in cold blood, as his friends watch. After that I expected the story to get even more fast-paced and exciting, but it kind of trailed off. After the first hundred pages the novel started to grow stale and after the next hundred, I constantly found myself wondering if there was even a point to the whole thing. By the time I finished I was let down and dumbfounded at how such a talented author could have written such a weak, confused novel.
I kept reading out of morbid curiosity and a hope that the ending would make up for the random plot line, but unfortunately it did not even come close. The story jumped around from drug dealing, to domestic violence, to dead relatives, to animal abuse, to murder, to alcoholism, and even references to the Manson murders. It felt that Ketchum knew the story was weak and tried to spice it up by adding in more ingredients, and ended up just spoiling the recipe entirely. There was barely even an ending. Nothing felt resolved, a lot of people died, and I felt cheated. If anyone has read or seen No Country for Old Men, then you have an idea of what I mean, but the problem is that The Lost doesn’t have the skilled nihilistic undertones that McCarthy uses, and instead it just feels half finished.
Ketchum’s brilliant writing style is still present, and his characters are vividly portrayed. By the end you feel as if you know each of them personally, and that is an aspect that I often find lacking in other author’s works. There are a few moments in the novel that are touching and sweet, and some that are disturbingly brutal, but for the most part it was rather hum drum, like watching a bad movie on cable. Speaking of which, they even turned it into a movie back in 2008, and it got a lot of positive reviews. I’m sure the story would seem much faster on screen than it does over hundreds of pages, but I am still skeptical.
All in all, while I would definitely recommend Ketchum to any fan of the genre, I would advise that you avoid this particular story. It’s better than watching golf or curling, but by the end of it, the only thing that was “lost” was the time I spent reading it.