Our Lady of the Lost and Found: A Novel

Schoemperlen, Diane

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn
  • Date of entry: May-11-2004


One April day, a middle-aged writer, who was raised a Protestant but is not religious, is surprised to find a stranger, wearing a plain raincoat, in her home. The intruder says that she is Mary, mother of God, and something in her direct simplicity announces the truth of her claim. May will be the busiest of Mary's year, and she is tired; she asks to stay for a week to rest. Over lunch of soup and sandwiches, the two women establish an arrangement that Mary will stay and that if her host chooses to write about the visit, she will call it a work of fiction.

As Mary quietly goes about a banal existence--shopping, napping, doing laundry, using the toilet--the writer embarks on an investigation of Marian history--contrasting the relatively few biblical references to the mother of Jesus with her enormous fame and heavy responsibilities over two thousand years. Why has Mary been venerated? How can she cope with the thousands of prayers sent to her each day? Can transcendence reside in the mundane tasks of female life?

By the time her guest leaves, the writer is not converted but she comes to the conclusion that faith includes the acceptance of uncertainty, and that writing is an act of faith.


The imaginative premise of this novel carries the reader along with the narrator into the arcane, list-like 'histories' of Mary in her many manifestations and into unusual applications of Heisenberg Uncertainty to pedestrian aspects of life. While admiring of the book's playfulness, a few reviewers did not appreciate its historical middle sections, which are written as journalistic reporting of what can be read in scholarly tomes.

In some editions, the title of this book is "A Novel of Mary, Faith, and Friendship"--which accurately conveys its deceptively simple messages that perhaps are best expressed as questions. Is Mary venerated because her sorrows are understood and feared, if not shared, by all women? The writer and her guest are both mothers of sons, seemingly alone, although little is done to play up that implicit analogy. Is faith--i.e., a confident belief in the absence of evidence--the modus operandi not only of religion, but also of writing, of medical practice, and indeed of everyday life? The author explores the same theme--the ubiquitous nature of faith-- in a poetic, two-page essay on "faith" within her 1998 essay, Forms of Devotion (see annotation in this database).



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