Our Lady of the Lost and Found
Patricia Whitney, former coordinator of the Women’s Studies Program at
the University of Prince Edward Island, is the Bank of Montreal Visiting
Scholar in Women’s Studies at the University of Ottawa.
Diane Schoemperlen’s reputation was broadly established with Forms of
Devotion (1998), which won the Governor General’s Award for fiction.
Her latest novel is worthy of that standing, demonstrating enchanting
creativity in both form and subject. The plot turns on the appearance of
the Blessed Virgin Mary before a woman living her quiet writing life in
a small Canadian city. Mary appears “solid and sturdy as either my
neighbor at the grocery store with a cart full of food and the kids
clinging to her legs or the fir tree in the front yard dropping needles
and cones all over the grass.”
This Mary comes grounded; a real woman ready to help with lunch, keep
her room in order, and generally be the friend anyone would treasure.
Her presence becomes the catalyst for the narrator’s examination of
all that is most important in life: love, faith, spirit, children,
creativity, goodness, and forgiveness. With utmost subtlety,
Schoemperlen guides the reader into these matters of the heart, soul,
and body, weaving the profundities through the quotidian narrative of
one woman’s life and her encounter with the archetype of the goddess.
The histories of Mary’s many visits to Earth are retold through a
gently feminist lens, unlocking her power, a strength devoid of ego and
resting instead on a self who is Queen of Heaven, mother of gods, She
This is a work of metafiction, concerned with its own process of making
meaning. The narrator is composing a manuscript that she calls “Our
Lady of the Lost and Found.” Below this working title, she writes,
“This is a work of fiction.” The “actual” novel, Our Lady of the
Lost and Found, is similarly inscribed. Both Schoemperlen and her
fictional narrator focus on the fragile membrane separating dimensions
of experience, setting off the construction of “fact” from a
different yet overlapping construction of “fiction.” It is within
this liminality that Mary appears, allowing us to find that still point
of a paradox held. This novel of ideas is a book to cherish.