Riverhead, Apr 2002, 13.00, 311 pp.
Twenty something Englishwomen Esther Waring and Gemma Harding have been friends for about two decades though they are quite the opposite in attitude. Esther is confident to the point of arrogance that she can do anything while Gemma is reticent to the point of insecurity believing that she can do nothing. Though Esther's haughtiness includes stealing the guy Gemma wants, to renew their sliding friendship the duo travels to India together on a backpacking trip.
Rather than the adventure they expected, the trip proves to be more of a series of bickering spats and complaints as Esther expects to gain her way ever time regardless of Gemma's desires while Gemma argues and whines, but acquiesces. Soon veteran backpacker Coral joins the duet. While Esther detests the know-it-all newcomer who steals her thunder, Gemma warms to her. The threesome trek through the jungle together until they reach a shrine where an ecstatic Coral begins a self-immolation journey that ends in Esther LOSING GEMMA.
Starting with the opening statement and the stark locale (no Taj Mahal), LOSING GEMMA grips the audience from beginning to end as readers observe the downside of friendship. The story line engages the audience and though the ending is anticipated, it takes little away from one of the year's strongest character studies that focuses clearly on all three female protagonists, but hones deep inside Esther and Gemma. Katy Gardner provides fans with a powerful relationship drama filled with real people that stress friends that care could lead to friends that betray.
This report prepared by Harriet Klausner