If you were ever a teenager involved in backpacking and trekking; a flower child in search of peace, love, and spiritual fulfillment; a traveler to India adventurous enough to go off the regular tourist trails; or the parent of any of these, you will love this wickedly satirical tale of two callow 19-year-olds who decide to spend a few months of their gap year backpacking around India in search of experience and enlightenment. With so many summaries already on the site, I'll forgo writing another one, but this book, unlike so many others that critics tout as "hilarious," but which regular readers find only mildly amusing at best, really IS hilarious!
As Dave and Liz smugly "experience India," we see how shallow their involvement is, how much they are acting and trying on roles to see if they fit, how much this trip is a way to avoid boredom, and how, lemming-like, they do what everyone else does, staying in the same hostels, following the same itinerary, and searching for "meaning" in outrageously off-the-wall activities, the chief attraction of which is that they take place in a foreign country.
Sutcliffe does not hold back in his satire, but he is not mean-spirited. The reader can easily imagine that this novel evolves from some of Sutcliffe's own amusing experiences or those of some of his friends. He is laughing with, rather than laughing at. Most readers will probably not have pursued enlightenment in the extreme ways that Dave and Liz do, but most of us will see ourselves at nineteen mirrored in their naivete and gullibility. In laughing at them, we are also laughing at ourselves.