Twelve contestants on a round-the-world scavenger hunt compete for reality-TV fame and a million-dollar jackpot.
The latest reality-TV show to go into production, Lost and Found is down to its last six pairs of contestants. Cameramen and sound crew trail each duo as they careen through international airports lugging a parrot in a cage, an aviator helmet and a ski pole, en route to clues that will lead them to other equally hard-to-travel-with objects. What with jet lag, drastic time-zone changes and the grueling challenges of the intermittent daredevil rounds (milking rattlesnakes, being buried to the neck in hot sand), relations between team members are frayed: 18-year-old Cassie and her newly slimmed-down, long-widowed mother Laura are NOT TALKING about the baby Laura carried unnoticed to term and gave up for adoption; Juliet and Dallas, former child stars, find the spotlight isn’t big enough for both of them; Carl and Jeff, brothers both recently divorced, disagree as to whether their lifelong joke-meister routines are appreciated by the others; Betsy and Jason, former high-school sweethearts reunited for the trip, learn that they’ve long outgrown each other; Trent and Riley, techno-whizzes who caught the dot.com wave and bailed in advance of the crash, are having trouble with the mundane; and Justin and Abby, both “ex-gays,” now born-again Christians, discover that their marriage to each other hasn’t put a stop to “sinful desire.” As the teams decode rhymed clues that send them from a Cairo nightclub to a Shinto palace in Japan, and further on around the globe, the show’s producers manipulate contestants’ exhaustion to orchestrate juicy confrontations for the cameras. Told from different characters’ points of view, this novel manages, despite its madcap premise and full-frontal exposure of crass American greed, to deliver several sympathetic characters.
Given the high-concept premise, Parkhurst (The Dogs of Babel, 2003) has avoided the pitfall of simply engineering a joyride, and written a funny second novel that surpasses her first.