Reality Meets Fiction

If you’re not a reality TV fan, then stop reading now.

If, however, you’ve ever gotten hooked on a reality show, like American Idol or Survivor or even The Real World, back in the day, then you might enjoy Carolyn Parkhurst’s satire Lost and Found.  The book is a fictionalized account of a TV show in which teams of two travel around the world, collecting clues, in a quest to win a million dollars.  The book is based, of course, on the show The Amazing Race (which in my opinion is the best reality show on TV, and god knows I’ve watched a lot of them).  The chapters are narrated by the contestants, and the book is more about the characters’ lives and relationships than it is about the competition, which provides the plot and context. This book is a beach read, no doubt, but probably quite entertaining.

The Washington Post gave it a good review (initial sign-in required). Here’s an excerpt:

But fortunately, what really interests Parkhurst is quiet, private agonies of love and shame, and on this score she delivers several surprisingly moving stories. As on “The Amazing Race,” the contest here is really just an excuse to bring together a diverse group of people who would otherwise never be thrown together. (Before reality TV, we had to rely on Lamaze classes or jury duty.)… Beyond the cameras and the manufactured “encounters” of this TV show, Parkhurst catches us again and again with these moments of real tenderness. Long before the end, the million dollars doesn’t matter; other things, far more important, are found here. And that’s reason enough to tune in.

And here’s this from Entertainment Weekly (subscription or log-in required): “Parkhurst, an astute student of reality TV, makes clever use of the genre’s conventions. Individual players have their own chapters, not unlike show ‘confessionals,’ and because they’re constantly being recorded, we don’t miss a second of satire so on-point, you’d swear you’ve already seen this series.” EW gave it a B+.

Here’s a Boston Globe review by Elinor Lipman and one from The Seattle Times. Amazon user reviews are pretty positive as well — all 4 or 5 stars.

Incidentally, the author is a DC resident who broke onto the literary scene in 2003 with her first book, The Dogs of Babel, which was also well-received.


  • tlb
    August 9, 2006 - 7:45 am | Permalink

    very meta- a book of fiction about a reality tv show, which most of us watch to “escape” reality!

  • Kari
    August 16, 2006 - 9:25 am | Permalink

    Hi there, Got to your blog via Stacy F. in Madison. I read Lost and Found after seeing the EW review and found it fun. I think I particularly enjoyed it because I am such a fan of reality shows, especially Amazing Race which the fictional show in the book most mimics. It definitely was a great premise for a novel, and aside from a few strings that were tied up a bit too easily I quite enjoyed it. I am now more interested in reading Dogs of Babel which I didn’t get to when that was getting a lot of press a few years ago. Looking forward to reading your blog in the future. I’m a librarian whose been at home with 2 babies for the last 2 years, so I also read way too many magazines and reviews. Will send some of my recommendations some time. Cheers!

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