hristina Willems life is about serving. She Lovingly shepherds a group of poor and displaced individuals on a small Kansas farm. Her charges count on her leadership and have come to see Brambleville Asylum for the Poor as their home. But when a fire breaks out and makes their home unlivable, Christina must scramble to find shelter for all her charges, scattering her “family”.

Levi Jonnson is a mill owner and a notorious recluse. So when he is approached about taking in Tommy Kilgore, a young blind boy, he doesn’t want to, but reluctantly agrees with the stipulation that she find somewhere else for him to stay. However, Levi is surprised at the bond that quickly grows between him and Tommy. He’s also surprised at his new reluctance to go back to being a hermit.

With repairs stopped by obstacle after obstacle, Christina wonders if she can finish the mission that she dedicated her life to. And when an old adversary shows up, Christina needs help, so she turns to Levi, hoping that he will help her. Levi is trying to stay aloof but Christina and Tommy are making it very difficult to keep his lifestyle and maybe that’s just what he needs.

Kim Vogel Sawyer has been a favorite of mine for years. I actually started reading her books and haven’t had the opportunity to read a novel by her in quite some time. Because of that, I jumped at the chance to read this one and I must say that this novel reminded me why I love her writing so much. I’m so glad I got the opportunity to review this one and got to get reacquainted with one of my all-time favorite authors.

This story was by far my favorite by this author. I got dragged in so completely that I devoured this book and was sad to put it down. The thing I loved most about the story was the gritty and realistic feeling throughout it. I never once felt that something was unrealistic or implausible. The author’s descriptions and amazing character development kept this story at a good pace and made my mind’s eye go crazy with color and feelings. I loved this storyline so much!

The characters were awesome. I felt that they were well developed and likable, a hard quality to find as of late. I also felt that their fears and feelings made a ton of sense and I could see myself being the same way in their situation. I also liked the wide range of characters that were there. There was the snooty one, the sullen one, the chipper ones, and the spiritual ones and it pieced together book and made it well rounded.

The only real complaint I have is about the romance. There wasn’t much of it as there wasn’t much contact between Levi and Christina and what little contact they had wasn’t intimate in any sense. However, what little romance I saw was awesome and typical of this author. Surprisingly though, even with the lack of romance I still love this book and completely fell for the character. Even enough to even ask for a sequel to this one. (Please?!)

This author captured my heart with Waiting For Summer’s Return and recaptured it with this one. I can’t wait to see what else she has for me and I can’t believe I’ve gone as long as I have without a dose of her books. It can’t happen again. I absolutely recommend this book and author and I definitely think this book belongs up on the “favorites” shelf and is definitely worth rereading.

–Danyelle Hunnicutt


hen Christina Willems and her father moved to Kansas to establish the Brambleville Asylum for the Poor, she never thought that one day she would be running it by herself. Since her father’s death, Christina is the one to whom these poor, misplaced individuals look for leadership and for friendship.

When a fire destroys part of the Asylum, Christina must find temporary shelter for the residents until it can be rebuilt. She is able to do so for all but one – an 11-year-old blind boy named Tommy. With nowhere else to go, Christina asks the reclusive mill owner, Levi Jonnson, to take Tommy. Levi reluctantly agrees, but then he is surprised at how quickly he becomes attached to the small boy.

As Christina works to rebuild the Asylum and to reunite her “family,” she begins to encounter obstacles at every turn. As each day passes – and as the residents begin to find homes and jobs away from the Asylum – Christina starts to question why God has seemingly taken away her ministry. And the more she deals with Levi Jonnson, the more interesting and attractive he becomes.

Will Christina ever be able to recover all that she seems to have lost?

The overall plot of this book is similar to another novel that I read recently, and I was concerned at first that it would be difficult to distinguish between the two. Although there were some things in parallel, this novel was still able to stand on its own.

To me this book was very interesting and grounded at times and then at other times seemed to be all over the place. But I guess the overall feel does correlate to how Christina feels throughout the book – displaced and chaotic.

The story is told from four different points of view, which kind of took me by surprise at first. Because the reader sees every facet of the plot, there are not too many surprises. For the most part, I liked having all of this information and the different points of view, but it did contribute to the all-over-the-place feel that I mentioned earlier.

Even though these different points of view contributed a bit to the disjointed feel, I did like the stories that were told through Levi, Christina, Cora, and Tommy. I especially liked the perspective of Tommy, the blind child. I thought the author did a great job putting the reader in the mind and surroundings of a child who was blind, and the relationship between Tommy and Levi was fantastic.

The romance in this novel to me felt a bit rushed. Christina and Levi didn’t seem to spend much quality time together, and the romance kind of takes a back seat to all of the chaos that is going on with the residents.

The one thing that was grounded in this book was the spiritual aspect. I felt that it was clear, it was rooted in Christ and the Bible, and the characters experienced tremendous growth through the course of the novel. It was neat to see how God was at work the whole time through all of the situations. It was also a great reminder that those of us who profess to be Christians need to remember that we are sinners saved by grace and that we should reach out to others in love rather than condemn others in judgment.

All of the main characters experienced growth in the novel, but Christina’s came to the forefront. She had to come to the point where she asked herself if she was doing ministry for herself rather than for the glory of God. She couldn’t see God’s hand in her situation or in the lives of the others until she chose to trust in Him completely.

What Once Was Lost is a historical fiction novel that is a little light on the romance but does a good job of delivering a message of faith and trust in the God who directs our steps.

–Sara Shoop