Lost Girls and Love Hotels

by Catherine Hanrahan
192 pages,
ISBN: 0670064440

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Review of Lost Girls and Love Hotels
by Nancy Wigston

Lost Girls and Love Hotels by Catherine Hanrahan (Viking, 192 pages, $26.00, cloth, ISBN: 0670064440). Margaret is a Canadian girl behaving badly in Japan. Her reasons are many: her father deserted the family; her mother has turned New Age and gay; but mainly, her brother Frank, once her ally, has developed schizophrenia. In her adolescence Margaret coped with family life by becoming the school slut, a role she replays in Tokyo. When not trying to lose herself as far from home as possible, she obsesses, in alternate chapters, over the childhood she aims to forget. Hanrahan writes prose that is insightful, crisp, and lucid. Her experienced eye takes us deep into Tokyo's neon nightscapes, although the clichTs we're used tołthe uniformed schoolgirls and the legions of blue-suited "salary men"łare here as well.
Margaret's day job involves training pretty Japanese girls to become flight attendants; by night she hangs out with expatriate pals Ines and Adam, clubbing, power-drinking, doing drugs, then checking into "love hotels" for a few hours of bondage sex with perfect strangers. When one stranger turns out to be Mr. Perfect, Margaret falls in love, wilfully ignoring two inconvenient facts: he's married and he's a gangster. In turn, Kazu loves her because she goes to sleep sucking her thumb. (Talk about schoolgirl fantasies.)
Hanrahan ratchets up the anxiety of expat life with the reported disappearance of a foreign girl, whose photo makes headlines. "She's dead," states Kazu unsettlingly, after Margaret claims to have seen the girl in a crowd. The narrative is further larded with folk tales and myths that nicely balance the grit of Margaret's existence; Hanrahan knows the culture of which she speaks. The narrative gathers momentum with a series of electric plot-jolts. Equally attractive, though, are the surprising moments of genuine warmth when Margaret connects with others on her troubled journey, demonstrating her potential for not being lost after all.

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