Sunday, August 9

Lost and Found - Carolyn Parkhurst

Laura and her teen daughter Cassie are taking part in the global scavenger hunt that is reality TV's newest offering, "Lost and Found." As they travel the globe, solving clues and carrying unwieldy souvenirs (including a ski pole and a live parrot) while racing to win the grand prize, Laura has recently lost 100 pounds, and is coming to terms with how this has changed the way other people respond to her. More importantly, she hopes to reconnect with the daughter she's recently become estranged from.
Told from the perspectives of each of the contestants still playing when the novel opens, we learns about a variety of relationships - the middle-aged brothers, the former childhood sweet-hearts, the converted-to-straight Christian couple, the former child stars - and the secrets they're all keeping.
Lost and Found is one of those books I have no recollection of picking up, but there it was in my pile of library books. I picked it up with low expectations, and was captured from the opening line:
By the sixth leg of the game, we have accumulated the following objects: a ski pole, a bishop from a crystal chess set, a sheet of rice paper, a trilobite fossil, an aviator's helmet and a live parrot.
The plot alone was interesting - the event at the centre of Laura and Cassie's estrangement slowly emerges, from both perspectives, discover a secret Laura is unaware of, and see the other relationship change along the way too. While some of these are less surprising than others (the formerly gay couple are still attracted to their own gender), Parkhurst's characterisation and delivery makes their revelations suspenseful and interesting.
The reality TV context added a unique element that I, as a huge fan of The Amazing Race, welcomed. It not only framed the action, creating a situation where contestants couldn't leave or take things at their own pace, and creates external tension and urgency. Not only was there all the behind the scenes stuff the audiences misses (like how the producers avoid relationships developing between cast and crew, and tweaking to add suspense) but the show itself was something I'd love to watch. I particularly liked the deviousness of the clues - TAR is increasingly less clue-oriented and more directive: "go here and do this," and I miss the harder elements present in the earlier seasons. But I digress.
This is Parkhurst's second novel, after Dogs of Babel, which my library has on order, so I don't know if this is typical of her work or a stunning aberration. I will, however, keep a look out and keep you posted. - Alex

I've re-read Lost & Found since this review; for my other review click here. For Lynn's review click here.

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