"The Lost Girls" chronicles the travel-related memories and stories of 3 young women, who leave their New York-based jobs in order to make a detour of the world. Each section is recounted by one of the three girls and the book encompasses countries from four different continents including Peru, Brazil, Kenya, India, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, New Zealand, and Australia. It is a coming-of-age novel-like non-fiction book rather than a travel book, following in the footsteps of "Eat, Pray, Love."
I enjoyed reading the book, in general. I respect the girls' bravery, determination, and in some cases, fearlessness when they come across troubles. But, I have my problems with the book. Here they are:
1) It is too long. My feelings when I finished reading the book were "Thanks God!" rather than a "God, I don't want to finish this book" - the experience I had when I finished reading Rachel Friedman's travel memoir entitled "The Good Girl's Guide to Getting Lost." Also, Friedman's book encouraged me to go on a backpacking tour on my own more than the writers of this book did because throughout the book you always get a sense that their trip is a luxurious one (yes even though they say they stayed in awful lodgings!)They always retain a snobbish distance to their reader (at least to me), wherein identifying with them/their struggles or reading their experiences as sincere recountings become almost impossible.
2)They are the 'lost' girls and throughout the whole trip, they strive to be found: through a relationship or through their work. They never really understand or enjoy the 'lost-ness' and 'disorientation' that naturally comes with traveling and living in an unfamiliar environment. In contrast, Rachel Friedman (comes to) enjoy the state of lost-ness that comes with traveling to different parts of the world in her book. She tries to be lost while the writers of this book tries hard to be found even when they are miles away from their home.
3) My biggest problem, though, is: They are quite openly orientalist. These girls mostly go to underdeveloped countries during their year-long trip. Their representation of local/indigenous people in the countries they go sometimes sound too orientalist (with descriptions such as 'wild looking' and 'sad face' scattered around the book)when the image they transfer is obviously not a 'neutral' one but almost always perpetuates the binaries such as savage and civilized, inferior and superior, and ultimately them and us. They always view the local people through a 'Westerner lens' and their views almost always reflect the dominant ideology that America is the most civilized, refined, and developed country/culture in the world. This view orients most of the way they see, observe, and interpret diverse cultures in the places they go.
For example, there are parts when one of the girls say something like this: " this woman probably makes less money in an entire year than the amount Amanda totes around her waist" and then goes on about how, although poor, she can 'still' be happy, even happier than most of the people she encounters in Manhattan. Or, they would say: "I can't imagine how someone could pay me to do this, this, and this choir" Or they expect the kids in Africa to say candies or snacks when they ask them what their favorite thing is and are greatly surprised when they say corn, rice, and beans.
It is hard for them to understand how genuinely happy locals can be while people they left in New York can be so depressive and suicidal while they have 'everything'.
That is why, when they go to Australia and New Zealand at the end of their trip, they feel like they are 'home.'
Finally, this book shares the same depth and sophistication about unfamiliar cultures as an Indiana Jones film. Therefore, readers should not expect more, but just read The Lost Girls for a light, sometimes 'biased' reading.