In 1962, at age twenty-two, Frank Weiss felt destined to follow the path his parents want him to take, working in the family business which will eventually be his. But one April day on the 88 bus a young woman catches his eye. He notices her before she boards – her clothing and the confidence she exudes not to mention her red hair. He can’t believe it when she sits across the aisle from him.
Frank’s encounter with this intriguing young woman begins Freya Sampson’s latest novel, The Lost Ticket. The author weaves three stories into one with the 88 bus as a touchstone.
The first story is Frank’s and it begins with his encounter on the bus. Between his stares and blushes Frank and the young red-head share a stop and go conversation about her quest to be an artist. She defied her father to go to art school which Frank finds incredibly brave. They agree to meet at the National Gallery the following weekend if he’ll call her. Only after she writes her number on her ticket and gets off the bus does Frank realize he didn’t get her name.
Totally captivated and in a daze planning a future where they are together Frank heads home. Once there he empties his pockets to discover he lost the ticket she gave him. Even though he lost his chance to see her again, the encounter gave him the courage to become what he wanted to be instead of what he was expected to be. Sixty years later after a successful career in the theater, Frank is still riding the 88 bus. He is looking for his redhead, not for romance but to say thank you for changing his life.
The red-head who sits across the aisle from him on this April day, Libby, is too young to be the one he hopes to find. Libby’s is the second story and she did not follow her dream to be an artist. She succumbed to her parents’ demand that she study medicine. But after 2 years dropped out and has been disappointing them ever since.
The latest disappointment is why Libby is on the 88 bus in London heading for her sister’s house. After eight years together, instead of receiving the marriage proposal she expected from her partner Simon, she was dumped. Simon is bored and wants some space. Since the house is in his name and Libby works at his gardening company, she finds herself homeless and unemployed.
Libby reminds Frank of his long ago fellow rider and he suggests that she get back into art by sketching people on the bus. His 1962 redhead sketched him and the drawing is one of his prized possessions. Libby’s first attempt she vows will be her last as she inadvertently riles the man she chose to sketch. And that’s too bad because she managed to capture the anger in the eyes of the tall, tattooed man with the spiked mohawk.
This brings us to the third story of the novel, Peggy’s. Her story comes in random chapters as she tells an unnamed person what is happening in her life. Events like witnessing a woman being yelled at by a man on the 88 bus. This intrepid young woman was sketching him right there on the bus. It reminded Peggy of when she used to draw on the bus.
Feeling lost and desperate for focus Libby is determined to help Frank find his lost love. An excited Frank offers the help of his carer (home aide). Frank has dementia and Dylan, tall with tattoos and a spiked mohawk, was employed to help him with his meds and food. Dylan is not at all happy but, for Frank, agrees to the plan.
During the search major changes happen in Libby’s life and others join the quest. As this disparate group bands together to help Frank before his dementia worsens, the author reminds us to look beyond our assumptions. Things are not always as they seem and families are not defined by genetics.
This is a feel good read. It’s a little bit funny and a little sad – it’s about life and what we make of the opportunities given. You can find it at the library in both regular and large print editions.
Review by Patty Crane, Reference Librarian