Disclaimer: This book review also appears on Women24.com, a South African women's lifestyle website where I manage, amongst other things, an online books section.
The Lost Girl
What would you do if you were created for the express purpose of living someone else’s life once they’ve ceased living?
The Lost Girl by Sangu Mandanna (Definitions)
“I promise to do my best to forget myself.”
What would you do if you weren’t allowed to be your own person? If you were stitched together from someone else’s memories so that you could replace the person whose snippets of memories lived inside of you?
Would you live your life as a shadow of someone else, or would you fight for your freedom, knowing that you’ll be hunted by your creators as well as those who abhor your kind?
It’s a chilling and impossible choice to make, isn’t it?
Yet, this is the prospect that Eva faces in this haunting and exquisitely beautiful work of speculative fiction written by debut author, Sangu Mandanna.
It’s somewhat of a cliché to use the phrase “this book will stay with you long after you’ve turned the last page”, but the themes of life, death and grief as well as questions of ethics explored in this novel ensures that The Lost Girl is not just a book that will leave you in a state of melancholic contemplation for days to come, but it’s also a read that boasts a wonderfully complex cast of characters.
I for one, am deeply, deeply in love with this read.
And what’s more, is that I’m convinced that Eva, the heroine of this poignant story is one of the most ferociously brave characters I’ve ever come across. So much so, that I fear I may not do the description of her character or this review any justice.
The book kicks off when we’re first introduced to Eva.
Eva is an echo.
Stiched together by Weavers, the creator of echoes, Eva’s life has never been designed to be her own.
Instead she’s a duplicate of a young girl her age, and is destined to replace the girl, should she ever die.
Because she’s expected to replace Amarra, the girl whose parents requested that an echo be made of her, Eva has to spend most of her time learning and studying everything about Amarra – replicating everything she does.
From getting a tattoo, to memorising and getting to know Amarra’s friends and boyfriend through documents, notes and photographs, Eva’s whole life is about forgetting herself to become someone else.
Of course, following this, the unthinkable – but inevitable happens – Amarra dies in a car crash and Eva is suddenly uprooted and thrust into a world she’s been trained all her life for.
Leaving everything behind her – from the guardians she’s grown to love over the years, to the boy she can never love – Eva’s time to play her new role finally begins.
What no one expects is for Eva to be so fiercely independent, with unique characteristics of her own.
She’s brave, defiant, creative and impulsive. Playing the role of a girl she’s indirectly known all her life, is harder than it seems, and stifling who she really is, proves to be the ultimate test of character.
What it also does is raise a lot of questions about the role and making of echoes.
Is it really possible to create an exact replica of someone else? And if disobeying the rules of the weavers and rebelling against a system of creation she never asked for, is such a crime, then what about the crimes of the weavers?
Should they be allowed to play God and defy the rules of death? Can a loved one truly be replaced? And if so, why are the echoes being condemned to be hunted by those who consider them abominations, when they didn’t ask to be created in the first place?
These are just some of the questions that are raised and explored throughout the novel.
They’re sensitive and controversial subjects, but are handled with such a great amount of care and sensitivity, that it enhances the hopelessness of Eva’s situation, leaving the reader even more sympathetic to her plight.
The supporting characters add an additionally intriguing aspect to the novel. What is apparent amongst many of the characters is that grief is something that brings out the worst in many of them.
What is being looked for is not easy to find, and the stinging loss proves to be a reality that is hard to face.
Trust is easily broken, betrayal becomes more than a familiar concept and blurring the lines between who you are and who you’re supposed to be is a burden that can only bring more heartache and pain.
With all this happening in the novel, one can’t help but wonder… is there any hope for Eva? What choices are left for her to make?
Without giving anything away, I can tell you that her determination to fight for her life will have you cheering her on all the way.
Being witness to her resilience and her selflessness is at once a joy to read, but also leaves you feeling rather forlorn because no one should be subjected to what she’s been exposed to.
If you’re still need convincing – Eva’s love interest, Sean is a pretty amazing guy. Not your usual bad boy stereotype, his presence and willingness to make great sacrifices to help Eva will have you wishing for a boy like him in your life.
The focus here, isn’t the romance though.
The Lost Girl is definitely a book that, to me, questions the increasingly dominant role of science in society
The book doesn’t criticise science, but instead is a thoughtful exploration of how dangerous it can be to become obsessed with biological experiments that could have lasting and not necessarily positive effects on the world and on people as a whole.
This incredible novel is also a book that celebrates the freedom to have a choice and the right to exercise it. It’s beautiful, heart-breaking and incredibly touching. You’ll weep for everyone who is inadvertently affected by all the events that occur in this book.
But mostly, you’ll fall in love with Eva, the bravest girl since Katniss Everdeen. And that’s saying a lot.
You should read this. Not only for the heart-stoppingly beautiful prose, but because it will also make you think.
I highly recommend it.