Author: Sangu Mandanna
Published: January 3rd 2013
Paperback, 400 pages
Source: Publisher for review
Buy: The Book Depository
Eva is an echo, a person weaved into existence to serve as some parents’ backup plan, in case something happens to their beloved daughter. Although reserved for the rich, the practice is not uncommon and Weavers make new echoes all the time. Eva has no life of her own; she must experience everything her Other, Amarra, does, so when Amarra gets a tattoo, Eva has to get one exactly like it even though she hates it, and when Amarra goes swimming in the middle of the winter, Eva has no choice but to do the same.
But the city is the place that shelters Amarra’s ghost. And yet being in it alone is one of the few places I can let the mask slip away and instead of walking in her shoes, it’s like we’re two girls, ghost and echo, walking side by side.
Even though it’s been two hundred years since the first echo was made, the public still considers them soulless. They are illegal in some countries, but even where they’re legal, they have to hide from the hunters. This makes Eva’s life even harder as she’s not allowed to leave the cottage she shares with her guardians or spend time with people her own age. Luckily, there is Sean, employed by the Weavers to teach her about normal everyday things, everything she can never experience herself, at least not unless her Other dies.
The romance between Eva and Sean was not some flashy, unbelievable, overnight thing. Developed over time and built on a substantial foundation, what Eva and Sean had wasn’t something I’m likely to forget. The times when Eva’s lack of social skill showed, especially in the way she handled things with Sean, were my favorite parts of the book because they made her seem realistic and very endearing. For the most part, Sean was a perfect hero, unwaveringly loyal no matter how hard the situation, but he wasn’t without flaws, and it was those tiny things, his weaknesses and quirks that made him stand out for me. Those are, after all, the things I’ll remember months from now when the color of his hair or the way in which he smiles completely disappear from my memory.
Mandanna’s writing is also flawless, not overly decorative and not too bare. She demonstrated the kid of surety one expects from a seasoned author, not someone as young and inexperienced as her.
So if I liked the writing, the story and the characters, why four starts instead of five? I think anyone who’s ever lost a loved one, not a distant cousin but someone extremely close, will struggle with the premise behind this book. As a parent, I can’t even imagine wanting a spare child if something happens to this one, and as a person who’s lost someone irreplaceable, I can’t even wrap my head around the whole thing. I struggled with the concept, but most of all, I struggled with the contradicting decisions and actions Eva’s familiars (Amarra’s parents) made. None of it made much sense to me.
‘You are important,’ he says. ‘Even if I can’t quite believe my daughter survived, like my wife does, you’ve still given us reason to hope for something more. For life beyond death. It’s why we wanted you in the first place. For that hope. And the absence of loss.’
However, I think I’ve made it clear that I really enjoyed this book. I had a difficult time accepting parts of it, and some of it just hit too close to home, but all things considered, The Lost Girl is a truly astonishing debut. I expected no less after reading my friend Keertana’s wonderful review. She was also kind enough to take us on a virtual tour of all the places Eva visited in Bangalore. It’s so interesting, make sure to check it out.