Thursday, September 13, 2007

Armchair Traveler Book Challenge, Entry 4

I have completed my 4th book in the challenge, this one being Carolyn Parkhurst's Lost and Found.


Luckily, this novel about a reality-TV show is a satire, if an often muted one. Addressing the comedy and tragedy of missed connections, bestseller Parkhurst uses the forum of Lost and Found, an Amazing Race–type competition, for a mostly somber (but occasionally very funny) set of character studies. As two-person teams journey from Egypt to Japan to Scandinavia, the carefully constructed, TV-ready personae of the competitors slowly unravel. Employing a constantly shifting perspective, Parkhurst admirably juggles a large cast of characters, with a number of competitors emerging as standouts: squabbling mother and daughter Laura and Cassie, tormented by a secret neither of them wants to publicly acknowledge; Justin and Abby, an "ex-gay" married couple wrestling with unruly desire; and Juliet, a former child star desperately angling for a return to the limelight. Parkhurst treats the game show as an opportunity for the contestants to decide, as the producer asks of them, "What have you found?" The answer for readers: heart and wit to spare.

Carolyn Parkhurst recently attended a meeting of my book club, for which we read her first book, The Dogs of Babel. I had purchased Lost and Found as a kind of "show and tell" as to what else she had written and she graciously autographed both of my books after the meeting. I really loved Dogs, so I was hoping I'd like Lost just as much, and I'm pleased to say that in some ways, I liked it even more!

The story rotates through the team members, each of them adding to the story in their own way. All the folks above are noted, as are a pair of brothers, one of whom is worrying about his 3 year old son who needed a liver transplant. The story starts with the teams coming to Egypt, and eventually they travel to Japan, Sweden, drive through Denmark, Belgium, Luxembourg, France, Germany, and the Netherlands, wind up in England and then Ireland before coming back to the US for the finale of the game.

The game show is supposed to challenge the contestants physically and mentally. Each pair is given clues as to where they're heading next, and once they figure it out, they must complete some challenges in the new country. I loved reading the clues and trying to figure out where they were heading next. Not only were the clues clever and well written, but I learned something about each country and found myself thinking, "I'd really love to see that!" I've never considered a trip to Scandanavia before, but after reading about the Oresund Bridge, I really want to go and drive across it!! I also want to see the World's Longest Art Gallery (Stockholm's subway is also known as the world's longest art gallery at 68 miles (109 kilometers). The majority of the subway's 100 stations include paintings, sculptures and mosaics.)

So perhaps when I plan my European tour for 10 or 20 years down the road, I'll have to include Sweden in the trip, something I'd have never considered before reading this book.

The only disappointment was that the clue in London was created for a 20 minute stop over, basically, so there wasn't much about London but that's my personal Anglophile shining through!

Definitely a great book, and it was a great selection for this challenge. Next up will be Laurie Notaro's There's a (Slight) Chance I Might Be Going to Hell, about the Pacific Northwest.

0 pearl(s) of wisdom: