In The Beautiful Lost, Luanne Rice deftly uses her experiences with depression to craft a lilting and surprising story about the vagaries of the human heart. Maia has struggled with depression and suicidal thoughts ever since her mother left to follow her passion of studying ocean life in the Canadian Maritime provinces. Maia is convinced everything will be fine if she can only reconnect with her mother, meaning she won’t have to take her pills, she will never need to be institutionalized again. When Maia runs away from home in search of her mom, she gets unexpected help and companionship from Billy, her crush from school. On the roads through New England, Maia and Billy learn truths about each other that are equal parts enthralling and distressing.
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Maia and Billy are on a road trip to find her long-gone mother in a rusty red truck with an unreliable radio. Needing not to be found by her frantic dad, they drive on back roads through the New England and maritime Canadian coastal boonies, turning the dial to college stations that fade in and out. They’re both fighting demons—Maia’s depression and Billy’s dark secret—and the songs provide a soundtrack that brings them closer to each other when actual words are too hard to say.
I listened to music while I was writing the novel, and these songs carried messages and meaning that I imagined (or in some cases, wrote about in THE BEAUTIFUL LOST) Maia and Billy would take to heart.
Wagon Wheel— Old Crow Medicine Show
This exuberant song requires your heart to lift. It encourages you to sing along, even if you don’t know the words. And if it makes you stop and dance by the side of the road, so much the better.
Mercy of the Fallen— Dar Williams
This song breaks and heals my heart. It’s so full of compassion and longing. A singer-songwriter friend told me it’s about the kindnesses touring bands and musicians show each other along the road. That seemed apt, considering Maia and Billy’s huge need for kindness. In the book, this was one of Maia’s mother’s favorite songs.
Born to Run— Bruce Springsteen
- Two kids getting out of a small town.
- One of my favorite lines in any song: “I want to know if love is wild/Babe, I want to know if love is real.”
- And because deep down we all want to be Wendy.
Lovesong— The Cure / Adele
I love both versions. I didn’t think anyone could perform “Lovesong” better than The Cure—it’s from their 1989 album Disintegration—but then I heard Adele’s track. She slows the song down, adds layers of desire and heartbreak, and works the melody straight into your soul. The line “I will always love you” pretty much says it all. It could be sung by Maia to Billy or to her mother. Or Maia’s mother—in spite of the fact she abandoned her daughter years ago—could be singing it to her.
Bells by Maesa Pullman and Rosa Pullman
I adore this song and these singer-songwriters (who also happen to be cousins.) The music is so lovely, the harmony sweet beyond belief. It starts with the lines, “Once we make it through the storm/We’ll rest, rest upon the shore/You and me in a sea breeze/Making me weak at the knees.” So there’s that…
And then, this part kills me: “Don’t try to analyze the storm/It’ll come and then it will be gone/You can’t put it in a bottle, seal it up/ ‘cause then there will be trouble.”
What perfect lyrics for Maia, a girl who’s been so depressed she’s wound up in the hospital because bottling up the storm—the despair and rage she felt over her mother’s leaving—took her so far down and, yes, “then there will be trouble.” But the song is titled “Bells,” jubilant for a good reason, reminding us there’s life and goodness after the storm.
Down by the Water— The Decemberists
This is a song of Billy’s. It’s forlorn but defiant, and I hear sorrow and yearning in the harmony. I am big fan of the band—I love Colin Meloy’s lyrics—and this song hits me especially hard because Gillian Welch sings on it and she is so far past amazing it can’t be quantified. The water imagery, the mention of a seaport (Mystic Seaport plays an important role in the novel,) the harmony (I’m thinking of Maia and Billy as well as the actual singers,) make it a song they had to hear along the road.
The Sound of Winter— Bush
This beautiful, haunting song ends with the line “You’ve got to hang on to yourself.” Isn’t that so, so true, the lesson we all have to learn? Leading up to it are lyrics sung by someone who notices and cares. He sings, “It’s all in your face/I see you break/It’s like the sound of winter.”
That’s what depression is like: endless winter. And I love the song, written by Gavin Rossdale, because it understands that fact. I think that everyone who’s ever been depressed knows how frozen we can feel, and how welcome and surprising it is to feel someone notices, really sees, beyond the fake emotions we show the world to make people think we’re okay.
Something else about this song—my friend Chris Traynor is lead guitarist in Bush. Chris understands darkness and writes about it very well. We are writing a book of poems together. He’s a great light in the world, but isn’t that often the way? We see what is light in life by not being afraid of the dark.
The video for “The Sound of Winter” was shot partially on the beach in Malibu, California while I was living there. Chris, his girlfriend Sibyl Buck, and their daughter Puma appear in the video. I love watching it and seeing them. It has a vibe of happiness and togetherness, the band in the studio and onstage, friends and family on the beach.
It reminds me: You’ve got to hang on to yourself.
Luanne Rice is the New York Times bestselling author of over 30 novels for adults and the YA novel The Secret Language of Sisters. There are more than twenty-two million copies of her books in print across the world and five of her novels have been adapted into TV movies and miniseries. Luanne lives in coastal Connecticut with her family of cats.