Lost Girls and Love Hotels: A Novel

Lost Girls and Love Hotels: A Novel

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by Catherine Hanrahan

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Margaret is doing everything in her power to forget home. And Tokyo's exotic nightlife -- teeming with intoxicants, pornography, and three-hour love hotels -- enables her to keep her demons at bay. Working as an English specialist at Air-Pro Stewardess Training Institute by day, and losing herself in a sex- and drug-addled oblivion by night, Margaret represses


Margaret is doing everything in her power to forget home. And Tokyo's exotic nightlife -- teeming with intoxicants, pornography, and three-hour love hotels -- enables her to keep her demons at bay. Working as an English specialist at Air-Pro Stewardess Training Institute by day, and losing herself in a sex- and drug-addled oblivion by night, Margaret represses memories of her painful childhood and her older brother Frank's descent into madness.

But Margaret's deliberate nihilism is thrown off balance as she becomes increasingly haunted by images of a Western girl missing in Tokyo. And when she becomes enamored of Kazu, a mysterious gangster, their affair sparks a chain of events that could spell tragedy for Margaret, in a city where it's all too easy to disappear.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Margaret, a 20-something Canadian, has fled to Tokyo to escape her past and now instructs aspiring stewardesses in "cabin-crew and airline interview English." By night, she numbs herself with drink and dangerous sex. Her story, as readers learn in alternating chapters, features an imploding family and a dangerously schizophrenic brother. Though Margaret is less than convincing as a narrator, her surreal Tokyo encounters propel the book: a barkeep who communicates with lines from Beatles songs, speakers in public bathrooms that broadcast flushing sounds, a rent-a-dog park, a Western slacker who gigs as a fake wedding minister. And, of course, the automated love hotels that Margaret frequents with a Japanese gangster. The plot lurches forward-Margaret becomes fixated on a missing Western girl, gets fired and hooks up with a man whose name she never learns before her roommate flees. There's redemption to be gained, but the fractured narrative feels like a string of bizarre moments. (July) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Edgy, hip debut that transports an unhinged young Western woman to Tokyo to lose herself among all-night dance clubs and theme-happy "love hotels."Hanrahan's Tokyo is a "nightmare of modernity" for Margaret, a Canadian who has come to Japan two months before as instructor at the Air-Pro Stewardess Training Institute. Her day job, preparing immaculately uniformed and highly synchronized Japanese women for the rigorous diplomacy of transcontinental flight, leaves Margaret ample time and funds for a rarefied night life with her suave and chameleon-like roommate, Ines, who manages to score all manner of drugs despite the difficulty of procuring them in Japan. Sleeping with a new man every night is the norm for these savvy gals. As Margaret inches not unhappily toward oblivion, her troubling past keeps nagging at her in the form of panicked cell-phone messages from her mother and older brother, Frank, back home in Canada. In flashbacks, we learn that Margaret's angry, controlling father left home and started a new family, abandoning her possibly lesbian mother and her brother, who has struggled with mental illness. The current messages to Margaret hint at an attack on Frank by bullies, but Margaret, on her regular stool at Jiro's bar, in her drug-addled state of apathy and self-pity, can't immediately digest the contents. Besides, she has fallen in love with one of Ines's bedfellows, a tattooed gangster named Kazu, who is smitten with Margaret when he watches her suck her thumb before sleep. Kazu possesses wealth and a hint of danger; the two explore theme rooms at love hotels until the powerful, rich wife catches on. Hanrahan successfully conveys an undercurrent of dark menace to Margaret'sJapanese experience, and, at the end of the story, she dramatically leaves us hanging. This insider view of high-end Japanese youth culture is wicked and unsparing.

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Lost Girls and Love Hotels
A Novel

Chapter One

Sometimes, when I'm staring down a room of Japanese stewardesses-in-training, looking across a sea of shiny black coifs, a chorus line of stockinged legs, knees together, toes to the side, when I'm chanting "Sir, you are endangering yourself and other passengers!," I think I should have let my brother stab me. I shouldn't have run when Frank came at me with the carving knife, yelling "Satan! Satan!" I should have faced him, arms outstretched, eyes closed in sacrifice, and let him put the blade into me.

I wake up to the sounds of Ines having sex in the next room. Ines is loud and she'll screw nearly anyone. If they don't meet her expectations, if she doesn't come three times, feel like she's transcended to a higher plane, speak in tongues, and get a postcoital foot rub, she makes them pay her. Cash. "Fuck them, little shits. I deserve money if they waste my time!" I used to be outraged. Used to think she was crazy. Now it all makes perfect sense. I sell my time and kill my body. She sells her body to kill time.

I look at the alarm clock. Ines has an orgasm. My bladder calls. It's time.

I have never, in my ninety-six days in Tokyo, been pressed into a subway car by the fabled white-gloved subway-pushers. I feel ripped off—it was just the sort of nightmare of modernity that I came to Japan to be a part of. That and drunk businessmen eating thousand-dollar sushi meals off the bodies of naked girls. Vending machines with schoolgirls' used panties on offer. Doomsday cults and death by overwork.

The morning train is all lolling heads and bad breath. It's coldseason. Half the subway carriage wears surgeons' cotton masks. A forensics convention, hurtling through the tunnels.

Near Yoyogi station, I read a pornographic comic book over the shoulder of an old man. An octopus having its way with a girl in a kilt. A group of huge-eyed horny schoolboys is about to rescue her when the falsetto voice of the train conductor calls my station.

Air-Pro Stewardess Training Institute is on the fourth floor of the ABW Building. One floor above True Romantic Collection marriage agency and one floor below the offices of Toyama Waste Disposal. Two months ago, when I first started working at Air-Pro Stewardess Training Institute, still under the spell of Tokyo and jet lag, blissfully sleepless and anonymous, I liked the building. The strange ceramic- tiled exterior—like a giant inside-out bathroom. The tiny elevators that jerked and sputtered to their destination. I was happy to be somewhere where I couldn't understand a word, spared from the torture of random snippets of conversation. For a brief few days I used the word "lucky." Applied the word "lucky" to myself.

One day I asked one of the secretaries what ABW stood for. She smiled and gave me the address of the building, carefully wrote down the city, ward, and street number, as though I was an amusing idiot. "No," I said to her. "I know where it is, but what does it stand for." She smiled even more. "Yes. Standing," she answered. I've realized that ABW and most Japanese acronyms stand for nothing. They stand for the Roman letters themselves. Mysterious and sturdy and decorative. Sometimes, on my way to work, I invent my own meanings for ABW. Academy of Beauty and Weaponry. Abandon Belief Within. Acme Brain Wedgies.

I have realized that no matter what I do, Air-Pro Stewardess Training Institute will never fire me. So, I've been driven to dressing for shock value, like a petulant teenager—strolling into the lobby in ski pants and ballet slippers. The ski pants rustle when I walk. I like the way the bib just barely conceals my little boobs and chafes my nipples a bit. I still have my platinum blond Louise Brooks– style bob that everyone thinks is so cute, but I've dyed the tips robin's-egg blue.

The staff scream "good morning" violently as the elevator doors open. I see them register my outfit. They struggle to maintain their professional smiles, but they shudder ever so slightly.

"Morning," I grunt, heading to the bathroom to change into my little blue suit.

Mikiko, the director's assistant, runs up behind me. Mikiko is fanatically cheerful, despite the tragedy. I heard about it from another staff member. She spoke about it in a hushed voice, the way some people talk about cancer or infertility. Mikiko is a failed flight attendant. With her degree from Tokyo University and her sylphlike figure, she made the cut for Japan Airlines—the dream of every Japanese girl with lofty ambitions. But during training, calamity struck. In the form of a cold sore. As the stress of her cabin-crew training grew, so did her blister. The doctors confirmed her worst fears. Herpes simplex 1. Her employers had no choice but to let her go. Pus-addled and dejected.

"Margaret-san! O-genki desu ka? You look so funky. Like a rock star, ne? You are really, really nitwit!" Mikiko says breathlessly.

"It's too early, Mikiko."

She follows me into the bathroom.

"Did you just call me a nitwit?"

"My boyfriend Kevin always says I'm nitwit. Like Meg Ryan. I love Meg Ryan. Do you love Meg Ryan?" Mikiko stares at me expectantly. She's a pretty girl with a bad overbite. Since her double eyelid surgery, she has the look of a startled animal. I expect one day she will pounce on me, tear at my jugular. I keep my distance.

"Yes. Love her. I'm going to get naked now."

Mikiko just stands there, eyes popping, big white teeth tipped with hot-pink lipstick, resting on her lower lip. "I need some privacy," I whisper.

"Oh! Sorry! I have a good news. Today is starting a new recruit, Madoka-chan!" Here at Air-Pro, or trolley-dolly boot camp, as I refer to it, we call the students recruits. Our slogan hails, "Air-Pro. Putting young women in the air. Where they belong."

Lost Girls and Love Hotels
A Novel
. Copyright © by Catherine Hanrahan. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

Meet the Author

Catherine Hanrahan 's fiction has appeared in Zoetrope All-Story Extra and Open City. Born in Montreal, she has lived in Thailand, England, and Japan, where she worked as a bar hostess and English teacher.

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Lost Girls and Love Hotels 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Reading Lost Girls and Love Hotels was like riding a roller coaster!! Hanrahan's style of writing was very intense, and I felt like I actually knew the characters, especially Margaret. This book was very raw and decadent, but at the same time, completely intoxicating! I read it in one sitting. I can't wait for another novel by Catherine Hanrahan!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Hi I am a 6th grade student that is writing a review on this book called Lost Girls and Love Hotels by: Catherine Hanrahan. I would recommend this book to people that are moving out and don't know what to do with yourself. No one to look after you when you move out, no one to make food for you or loan you some money when you need it in hard economy times. I learned that you have to do everything alone when you move out. That was a lesson to move out when you are independent and totally ready for a hard life. So this book was about how this girl named Margaret was doing everything in her power to forget home. Margaret was thrown off balance as she became haunted from pictures of her family she lost in a car crash. Now she can't forget her kids now that she is remembering that same exact night and what had happen then. She couldn't believe that she had trusted that guy she met at the bar that night. She should have been smarter then to leave her kids outside while she had a few drinks. She met a guy and she thought he was cool. He had seemed sober that is why she asked like a dumb blond "Can you give me a ride?" She should have known better but always the blonds that make the stupid choices. Sorry blonds out there. So that was the last time she had seen her family and the most important thing of all to her were her kids that had to suffer because of her mistakable dissection she had made that night. Thank you for reading my review on Lost Girls and Love Hotels.