Amanda Millay HUGHES. Lost and Found: Adolescence, Parenting, and the Formation of Faith. Cambridge, MA: Cowley Publications, 2002. pp 168. $13.95 pb. ISBN 1-56101-207-6.
Reviewed by Nivard STABILE, O.P., St. John’s University, JAMAICA, NY 11439

This book is about re-structuring our interaction with teenagers and the formation of their faith. Amanda Millay Hughes succeeds in tweaking her readers’ interest and imagination. She further challenges them to re-visit their own adult/teen encounters. In this book she validates principles of basic adolescent psychology derived from reflection on just one scripture story. The Lucan account of the boy (adolescent) Jesus lost on the family returning home from their traditional pilgrimage to Jerusalem. The loss, as we know from the story, culminates in the finding, “after three days”. The loss and the finding supply the on-going meditative speculation which is the very core of the book.

Amanda Millay Hughes is the mother of three recent adolescents: Will, Emily and Jennifer who are referred to throughout the book as prime examples of at-time-successes and at other times opportunities for Amanda’s growing in parental wisdom. How she shares this is not only charming but rationally convincing! Furthermore, throughout the book she displays a deep personal faith, evident from her reliance on the Word to make her point. The on-location experiences she shares, not only inform her faith, but as well her life and her parenting.

The author very masterfully provides a complete exegesis of the text. She takes every incident of the story and adds a conglomeration of presuppositions and imaginative ruminations to the happening. Her reflection, her practical application, her meditation, indeed her contemplation on the Word is a gift to any parent, any preacher. She expands on the unsettling reaction of Joseph and Mary upon the discovery of their loss. Their fears, their anxieties, — and all the time Amanda makes reference to her own experiences in comparable situations with her own growing children. Piece by piece, she exegetes the complete story while also referring to similar events in the lives of her children. We meet Jesus as an adolescent to which she attaches the lessons learned by and from Will, Emily and Jennifer in adolescence. A pattern of referencing back to the Jesus event is readily apparent as the author’s methodology. The story, her imaginative ruminations — her children in similar circumstances in rites of passage, make her point.

Details in the scripture account carry a wide range of learning opportunities. Jesus lost, the unknown reason for his straying, compassion in the finding, tradition in Jewish family life, the problem of identity, shock in the child’s company upon finding, mystified at the reason the boy gives, the return home in obedience, all find their application and resonance in current societal adolescent life. As a final consolation, the author's focus is on the boy growing “in wisdom and stature”. Each of these incidents finds a credible and interesting real life corollary . The lesson derived is real, applicable and convincing. While this pattern of story to real experience continues throughout the book, the finale, however, derives from yet another scripture.

The author cites a scripture, Matthew 20:20-23, taken from a New International Version from which the text quoted is headed, “A Mother’s Request”. It is another familiar story, the story of Mrs. Zebedee requesting a special favor of Jesus for her two sons. As this incident unfolds, the author “indicates the complexity of a mother’s ambitions for her children...”. The exposition on this text is done masterfully, and Amanda Hughes not only makes her point, but drives in the lesson of parenting as faith developing. The formation of faith is demonstrated as an inevitable product of conscious parenting with the scriptures as foundational. Time and again, the connection to her children, providing opportunities for understanding, growth, and faith development, all demonstrate a credible model for parenting and faith formation. In Amanda Millay Hughes’ Lost and Found ministers, counselors, preachers, but especially high school teachers will find this a good and special “handbook”.

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