Near the end of "Lost & Found," her sublime, compassionate new memoir, Kathryn Schulz revisits the myth of Eros, the sickly, lonely son of Aphrodite, and his younger brother, Anteros, conceived as a kind of caretaker. These gods embodied the push-pull of profound loss and transformative love, and it's this kinetic tension that pulses throughout her brilliant book.

Schulz structures "Lost & Found" as a triptych, its three sections named in the title. "Lost" is an intimate theater-in-the-round. In Schulz's telling, her childhood and adolescence in suburban Cleveland were charmed, proof of a happy marriage between a charismatic, insatiably curious lawyer and his punctilious, steady-as-she-goes wife.

Schulz tenderly ushers us into her Eden — baseball games, misguided vacations, "the novels of Edith Wharton" — with her father as mentor. But his health crises mounted into a years-long downward spiral; when he died in his mid-70s Schulz was stunned by the black hole of her own grief.

"Being his daughter now is like holding one of those homemade tin-can telephones with no tin can on the other end of the string," she writes. "His absence is total; where there was him, there is nothing."

But love rushed in like a cavalry, or in this case a Casey. The book's second section, "Found," is a paean to Schulz's wife, fellow writer Casey Cep (known here as "C."), mapping, with increasing momentum, their connection, from a casual first lunch to a second date that lasted almost three weeks. Cep was able to meet Schulz's père before he died, joining in his playful banter, cementing her role as Schulz's partner.

More than any book in recent memory, "Lost & Found" evokes the process of falling in love with a lush expansiveness and alertness to detail, a perfect ballet of confession and philosophy.

Schulz plaits her personal narrative with canonical explorations, from Plato to Dante to Elizabeth Bishop. Hers is a generous, conversational voice; the effect is like an intoxicating Oxbridge tutorial. This richly discursive style conjures a marriage of minds, between an atheist Jewish sophisticate and a rural-centric, theologically attuned Christian. There's one hilarious set piece — an argument about a bear spotted in Shenandoah National Park — which Schulz expertly teases out, allowing her to muse on her muse.

The third title element, "&," plumbs the idea that the examined life is an endless chain of ampersands, as the couple exchange vows and plant their own family near Cep's parents, close to Chesapeake Bay. (In August they welcomed a daughter.)

"Lost & Found" concludes on a jubilant note, an unabashed ode to joy. Schulz grounds us, as all great writers must, in the world: "I have fallen in love, also, with the wind-tossed, high-gloss green of winter wheat — to my mind, the most beautiful shade of green on a planet full of beautiful shades of greens. I have stood by the side of a field and watched hundreds of snow geese take flight, as if departing our mortal world for their own enchanted kingdom."

Hamilton Cain reviews fiction and nonfiction for a range of venues, including the Star Tribune, Oprah Daily, the New York Times Book Review, the Washington Post and the Boston Globe. He lives in Brooklyn.

By: Kathryn Schulz.
Publisher: Random House, 236 pages, $27.