Caroline B. Cooney is one of the most prolific young adult authors writing today with over 70 books published in various genres. THE LOST SONGS is a departure from her recent Edgar-nominated suspense, which includes IF THE WITNESS LIED and DIAMONDS IN THE SHADOW. But it’s another well-crafted page turner, albeit in a different sense. It features four teens balancing on a precipice that will determine the course of their futures.
"Caroline B. Cooney continues to show why she has been read by fans for decades."
Kelvin, Train, Doria and Lutie have to choose now if they will be good people who will “walk worthy,” or if they will let their pasts or their circumstances pull them down and keep them from their potential. Their stories are interwoven among their school days, their involvement with singing, their missteps, their relationships with a local preacher, and time with their family members. They are vivid and powerful characters, and readers will be rooting for each of them as they see themselves in these situations.
Lutie has a wonderful, magical voice that comes from generations of singers. Her MeeMaw, who raised her, taught her The Laundry List of songs sung by their ancestor, Mabel Painter, who was a laundress. A professor and her school music teacher would like Lutie to record these tunes, but she is not so ready to give up her inheritance as she sees it. She also knows that her mother, a drug addict who has been a part of her life only peripherally, would sell them in a minute. After MeeMaw dies, Lutie lives with each of her aunts in turn and tries to think about a future with college in it. Her mother starts contacting her to confess a secret, but Lutie isn’t sure she can bear to know it. Pressure is mounting to sing her songs at a Church fundraiser, too, and she doesn’t feel up to the weight of all these expectations.
Kelvin does not let anyone expect anything from him. He coasts through school, choir, and life in general, smiling at all and getting close to none. He resists memories of Lutie and Train from kindergarten when the boys wanted to be preachers and when they all went to Sunday School together. He loves it when Lutie stands up for the new girl, Doria, but doesn’t want to get too involved --- until he becomes forced to do so.
Doria misses her Yankee town, as her new neighbors refer to it. Her old friends still text and call, yet she cannot make new friends here in this Southern town. She is a brilliant accompanist and quickly is hired for a local church and for the school chorus. One day, she mistakenly tells wannabe thug Train that she practices alone at night in a church, and Lutie and other girls step up to protect her. Lutie introduces her to an amazing preacher, and she finds herself volunteering to help another woman feed hot meals to the poor folks in the Chalk district.
Train knows he should have done something to stop his brother from poking out the eye of a boy they were threatening. Now his brother is in prison and wants Train to do something to come join him. Train tries to be threatening, but none of it feels right. His mother ignores him now, and he in turn ignores his Preacher. But he can’t ignore Doria, who calls him by his real name and talks to him like a real person. She does not seem to believe what everyone tells her about him.
Things begin to change rapidly for all four characters, and readers will be drawn in to find out what kind of people they decide to be in this evocative novel. Caroline B. Cooney continues to show why she has been read by fans for decades.