What We've Lost is Nothing
Paperback Coming June 2020
From an NPR contributor and investigative journalist, a striking debut novel that chronicles the first twenty-four hours after a mass burglary in a suburban Chicago neighborhood and the suspicions, secrets, and prejudices that surface in its wake.
Nestled on the edge of Chicago’s gritty west side, Oak Park is a suburb in flux. To the east, theaters and shops frame posh homes and buildings designed by Frank Lloyd Wright. To the west lies a neighborhood still reeling from urban decline. Although the community’s Diversity Assurance program has curbed Chicago’s destructive racial housing practices over the past few decades, cultural integration has been tenuous at best.
In the center of the community sits Ilios Lane, a pristine cul-de-sac dotted with quiet homes that bridge Oak Park’s extremes of wealth and poverty. On the first warm day in April, as Mary Elizabeth McPherson, a lifelong resident of Ilios Lane plays hooky from high school, a series of home invasions rock her neighborhood. Thrust into an uneasy alliance with the neighbors around them, the residents of Ilios Lane must take stock of the world they believed they lived in;and the world many of them were attempting to create.
Incisive and panoramic, What We’ve Lost Is Nothing weaves together an impressive cast of characters, whose lives collide in the wake of disaster. In this powerful fiction debut, Rachel Louise Snyder sheds light on the gray area where ideals confront reality.
She ran past crumbling brownstones, large brick apartment buildings with busted windows and broken bottles sprinkled across the entryways. There were dirt lawns, no flowers, no children on the sidewalks pushing themselves on wobbly scooters. Through a few windows she could make out the flashes of television sets as she passed, she could hear the bass thumping of rap and hip hop. She tripped in a pothole, landed hard on her foot, righted herself. The boys shook with laughter. She ran past an abandoned brick building with multi-colored asphalt shingles. She slipped on a flattened paper sack from McDonald’s. Chain link fences waist high ran along the sidewalk in front of nearly every house. But she heard no human sounds, save for the boys following her, collapsing with laughter. She could feel her leg muscles starting to vibrate from the effort, feel her lungs straining with each breath. Such thirst she had! How much longer can I run? She had to extricate herself. Go west. Surely Michael would be worried. Mary Elizabeth would be home from school. Was she closer to Oak Park in the west, or the Loop to the east? Garfield Park. There was a botanical garden there. If she could just get there, someone would let her use the phone. Let her sit down. Offer her some water.
How can I be lost in a grid, she thought. How can I be lost so close to home?
“Rachel Louise Snyder writes with the rigorous scrutiny of an investigative journalist and the deep and roving empathy of a natural-born novelist; the result is a bold and mesmerizing exploration of daily truths we don't talk about nearly enough: class prejudice and racism; the chasm between newly arrived immigrants and those of us who've been here for generations; the painful division between husbands and wives and the children they've made; and that razored air between what we believe and what is. What We've Lost is Nothing is a stellar debut by an important and necessary new voice among us.”
--Andre Dubus III, author of Gone So Long and House of Sand and Fog
“Rachel Louise Snyder’s debut novel marks the arrival of an important new voice in fiction. With sharp prose and compelling insight, What We’ve Lost is Nothing brings readers to a neighborhood in a moment of public crisis that unmasks a range of private crises. Snyder renders a beautiful portrait of both the complex world of Ilios Lane and the gulf between the way that we imagine our worst fears, and the way that they come to pass and demand that we survive them.”
--Danielle Evans, author of Before You Suffocate Your Own Fool Self
“Snyder’s debut is smooth and engaging, and reads like the work of a veteran novelist.”
“…Snyder crafts a muscular and fearless debut novel that boldly tackles the heady themes of prejudice, self-preservation, poverty, and privilege. Deftly underscored by a steady drumbeat of denial and discontent, Snyder’s drama provocatively reveals the escalating tensions of a community about to implode.”
“…an outstanding new voice” in fiction…
“Snyder’s writing is crisp and clean and the premise is unique…”
"A powerful, page-turning debut that dares to delve below the surface of our glossy American lives. You may never look at your neighbors--or yourself--the same way again."
--David Goodwillie, author of American Subversive
“Snyder offers us an unflinching and complicated portrait of a community that is afraid to look back at itself, and she does so with grace, wit and tenderness of heart. This book is stunning and so incredibly relevant.”
--Alison Espach, author of The Adults
“In What We’ve Lost Is Nothing, Rachel Louise Snyder tackles a difficult subject, the effects of crime on a community. By exploring the lives of victimized neighbors, she shows how well-meaning people can fall prey to their fears and prejudices. It’s a story about an at-risk community skirting the west side of Chicago, but the themes are universal. It’s a compelling and important novel about family and neighborhood, about individuals when ideals and values are thrown into harsh contrast. A marvelous book.”
--Mark LaFramboise, Book Buyer, Politics and Prose bookstore