Laura and Cassie's relationship

Carolyn Parkhurst's _Lost and Found_

Introduction and Focus

Carolyn Parkhurst’s novel Lost and Found, published in 2006 and set in the same time period, portrays a reality television show. A different participant narrates each chapter as their individual stories unfold. Parkhurst satirizes the world of reality entertainment, plays on the theme of sexuality, as well as presenting a severely strained mother-daughter relationship. In this paper, I focus on the latter topic, the issue of Laura and Cassie’s challenging relationship as mother and daughter, arguing that Laura is not representative of a “bad” mom; rather, she is a mother who makes mistakes but does her best to rectify them. I also posit that Laura suffered from Postpartum Depression when Cassie was a baby. While Cassie is another mother figure in the story, for the purposes of length I will concentrate my analysis on Laura’s experience of motherhood.


Eighteen-year-old Cassie recently had a baby and managed to keep her pregnancy hidden from everyone, including her mother, until after she gave birth to her baby girl. She seeks out her mom for help after giving birth alone in the attic of their house and, although Laura wishes she could speak words of support to her daughter, the fatigue and shock she feels overwhelm her and she is unable to act lovingly towards Cassie. Cassie chooses to give the baby up for adoption, a decision with which Laura does not agree, and shortly afterward they audition for the reality show challenge called Lost and Found. Laura hopes that their participation in this challenge will help piece their broken relationship back together.

Our Main Characters

Laura's Guilt

Laura, whose husband died when Cassie was a baby, feels ashamed and extremely guilty that she remained oblivious of her daughter’s entire pregnancy and has difficulty forgiving herself for that. She wishes she could have been there for Cassie through that difficult experience, but admits that she was distracted with events in her own life, such as losing a significant amount of weight and almost marrying a “creepy” man whom she met online. Laura worries that she is a bad mother for allowing her daughter to suffer through this unimaginable experience alone and for not recognizing the signs of her pregnancy, which, in retrospect, seemed rather obvious to her.

How To Hide Your Pregnant Tummy

Postpartum Depression

Although the term Postpartum Depression is never used in the book, I believe that Laura’s description of Cassie’s first year of life indicates that she suffered from this condition. She conveys the extreme difficulties she experienced and her feelings of inadequacy as a new mother, telling her husband, “I love her, but I don’t know if I love her enough,” and even saying, “I hate the fucking baby” (172-173). Claiming that it was all worth it, Laura reveals that she laments Cassie’s decision to give up the baby because she “would have done it again, every bit of it” (173). It appears that, possibly on a subconscious level, she would have liked to have had a second chance to raise a child all over again in order to make up for the mistakes she made with Cassie the first time around. Laura struggles to understand how Cassie could let strangers raise her child, and her inability to comprehend that decision drives a deeper wedge between herself and her daughter.

Laura's realization of her daughter's sexuality

Laura begins to realize her daughter’s sexuality after closely observing her interactions with Juliet, another contestant on the show. She immediately sees this as an opportunity to mend their relationship because, in her mind, if she shows Cassie that she supports her and still loves her even though she is a lesbian, all of the problems between them will simply dissolve into thin air. Laura quickly discovers that this is not the case when she confronts Cassie about her sexual confusion and receives an extremely angry response.

Rebuilding their relationship

At the end of the novel, Cassie and Laura’s relationship is not fixed, but the process of rebuilding it has begun. Cassie finally allows her mother to comfort her and realizes the serious nature of what she has done (that is, having a baby and giving it up for adoption) and Laura realizes that it is impossible to be the “perfect mother.” Because Cassie finally opens up to Laura about her feelings and Laura finally forgives herself for the mistakes she has made as a parent, the reader is left with the sense that everything is going to be okay between these two characters.