Wednesday, August 31, 2022

Book Review: The Lost Ticket

By Jami Denison

“Fate” is a common subtext across many genres. Romance asks readers to believe two people are meant to be together; sci-fi explores parallel universes in the belief that every action and decision has meaningful consequences. In real life, we tell ourselves that things will work out if they are supposed to, that “everything happens for a reason.” As we grow older, we look back on our lives and wonder how things might have turned out differently if we’d chosen another school, job, or partner. 

In The Lost Ticket, British author Freya Sampson’s latest book, an elderly London man named Frank has spent the past 60 years riding the number 88 bus, hoping for a glimpse of the red-haired artist he fell in love with but never saw again after he lost the bus ticket with her phone number. He never even got her name! When Libby Sampson hears his story, she’s inspired to help. Out of sorts since her boyfriend of eight years broke up with her, now acting as an unpaid live-in nanny for her sister, Libby is hungry for a sense of purpose and romance. Even learning that Frank’s carer is a punk named Dylan with whom she had a nasty run-in isn’t enough to deter her. And time is of the essence, as Frank’s daughter Clara is about to move him into a home because of his worsening dementia, where he won’t be able to take the 88 anymore. Even worse, what if he forgets about his red-haired girl completely? Libby is especially moved because Frank’s motivations are altruistic. He just wants to thank the girl for inspiring him to tell his parents he didn’t want to run their shop; he wanted to be an actor. After meeting her, he went to drama school and became a working actor. That one conversation changed his life. 

Libby’s point-of-view is interspersed with that of Peggy’s, an elderly London woman who often misses seeing a poster about Frank’s story, or running into Frank and Libby on the bus. Is she Frank’s mystery woman? She’s alone, narrating her day to a person who’s no longer there, and missing a busy adult child. The reader wants Peggy to be Frank’s girl, because they obviously need each other.

The Lost Ticket is a cozy blanket of a book, with kindness emanating from every page. It would have been easy for Libby, with everything else going on in her life, to forget about Frank, the way society as a whole has dismissed the needs of the elderly cohort. But she throws herself into helping him achieve this last dream of his. Similarly, Frank inspires everyone he meets, encouraging them to chase after their dreams and take care of each other. Dylan, the punk, was a huge surprise, a marshmallow of a person devoted to Frank and his other clients, including a young woman with Down Syndrome who is about to get married. The only character who didn’t quite work for me was Libby’s four-year-old nephew Hector, an angelic boy with a vocabulary and temperament of a much older child. 

We live in challenging times, and as a reader, I tend to choose books that reflect that—either historical fiction about the horrors of war or thrillers that showcase the worst things that people do to the ones they love. The Lost Ticket was a welcome break from these realities, a reminder that there are good people in the world that put the needs of others first. Even if those people are fictional. 

Thanks to Berkley for the book in exchange for an honest review.

Also by Freya Sampson:

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