Lost Children Archive

Lost Children Archive

A Novel

Book - 2020
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"From the two-time NBCC Finalist, a fiercely imaginative novel about a family's summer road trip across America--a journey that, with breathtaking imagery, spare lyricism, and profound humanity, probes the nature of justice and equality in America today. A mother and father set out with their kids from New York to Arizona. In their used Volvo--and with their ten-year-old son trying out his new Polaroid camera--the family is heading for the Apacheria: the region the Apaches once called home, and where the ghosts of Geronimo and Cochise might still linger. The father, a sound documentarist, hopes to gather an "inventory of echoes" from this historic, mythic place. The mother, a radio journalist, becomes consumed by the news she hears on the car radio, about the thousands of children trying to reach America but getting stranded at the southern border, held in detention centers, or being sent back to their homelands, to an unknown fate. But as the family drives farther west--through Virginia to Tennessee, across Oklahoma and Texas--we sense they are on the brink of a crisis of their own. A fissure is growing between the parents, one the children can feel beneath their feet. They are led, inexorably, to a grand, unforgettable adventure--both in the harsh desert landscape and within the chambers of their own imaginations. Told through the voices of the mother and her son, as well as through a stunning tapestry of collected texts and images--including prior stories of migration and displacement--Lost Children Archive is a story of how we document our experiences, and how we remember the things that matter to us the most. Blending the personal and the political with astonishing empathy, it is a powerful, wholly original work of fiction: exquisite, provocative, and deeply moving"--
"A novel about a family of four, on the cusp of fracture, who take a trip across America--a story told through varying points of view, and including archival documents and photographs"--
Publisher: New York :, Vintage Books, a division of Penguin Random House LLC,, 2020.
Edition: First Vintage Books edition.
Copyright Date: ℗♭2019
ISBN: 9780525436461
0525436464
Branch Call Number: FIC LUIS
Characteristics: 361 pages, 24 unnumbered pages of plates : illustrations (some color), maps ; 20 cm

Opinion

From Library Staff

Told through several compelling voices, blending texts, sounds, and images, Lost Children Archive is an astonishing feat of literary virtuosity. It is a richly engaging story of how we document our experiences, and how we remember the things that matter to us the most. With urgency and empathy, i... Read More »

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Chapel_Hill_KrystalB Jan 25, 2021

Listening to this novel was a bumpy ride for me. Loved it, hated it. Loved it, hated it. Firstly, yes- it is beautifully written, well planned, exquisitely layered (heartbreaking and infuriating stories within stories), deserving of the praise, etc., etc. But man… the parents have some qualities I apparently have a real hard time swallowing. They are too... “cultured,” I guess? Enough with the name dropping of writers and musicians and dancers and artists and whoever else. Sheesh. And their treatment of their kids... so distant and selfish so much of the time. I realize this was by design, part of the Story and all, but it was enough that I almost quit it. And then I thought there may be some clarity (and redemption?) when the son narrates, admitting his parents’ shortcomings at one point. It wasn’t long after that when I got hung up on how he seemed MUCH too mature for a 10-year-old. ANYWAYS… lots of good things and lots of bad… Glad I finished, relieved I’m done.

m
m0mmyl00
Nov 16, 2020

A blended family — a man plus his 10-year-old son and woman plus her 5-year-old daughter — set out on a cross-country road trip: he, to record the sounds of “Apacheria,” the Apache Indians’ historical land, and she to record the sounds of undocumented immigrant children being deported. They are documentarians/documentarists. Along the way, they also record the sounds of their own journey: him sharing his thoughts with the children about the futile honor and courage of Geronimo and Cochise; she expressing her sorrow and rage about children being rounded up and flown back into the danger they are so desperate to escape. Sounds take on an almost mystical quality; she talks about “ghost sounds” — sounds they hear and record that are also sounds that the Apaches heard when the land was theirs. This book was a joy to read because Luiselli writes beautiful passages (except for the one multi-page sentence near the end; there was no reason nor excuse for that). It is surprising that she writes so insightfully about being a parent, because she looks too young to have much experience in that department. It’s when she switches to the voice of the boy that reality must be suspended more than I am able to suspend it. His words and thoughts sound nothing like those of a 10-year-old boy. It’s okay, though. I liked this book for the writing more than for the story.

u
uncommonreader
Oct 16, 2020

In this mishmash of a novel, it is as if the author could not decide what she was doing. Is this auto fiction? A post-modern exercise? Why did she change the narrator to an unconvincing child? Why place such emphasis on her marriage breakup but provide no insight on the reasons? The focus on the thousands of children fleeing unbearable conditions in Central America is lost by a self absorbed author in a too long novel.

s
StoriedLife
Sep 07, 2020

After an extremely promising start, Luiselli surrenders all her hard work to an unconvincing 10-year-old narrator and relies on the interjection of chapters of a fictional other work to present a nightmarish vision of the dilemma of border crossers. By the end, it’s flat, distant and ragged, with unfinished seams and characters who become increasingly contrived.

o
OIPgayle
Jul 22, 2020

I thought this book was beautiful, poetic and sometimes magical. I think I read a different book than some of these commenters.

CALS_Lee Apr 09, 2020

Modernist fiction and political activism have been brought together to produce Lost Children Archive. Luiselli is the daughter of a Mexican ambassador. When the southern border crisis grew around 2014 or so, Luiselli admirably volunteered her time and efforts to help the desperate refugees trying to reach the United States navigate the US legal system. One isn't surprised to read that this novel began as a scathing essay on how refugees are treated before being put on hold and later re-worked as a modernist intertextual manuscript, in dialogue with Pound, Eliot, Woolf, and others.

In the first half of this novel of two parts, the story is told from the point of view of a mother traveling by car from NYC to the border area with her soon-to-be ex-husband and their two children. She is working on a story about the children who travel to the border alone and disappear in their attempt, wiped from the map, except sometimes as a red X marking where bodies are found in the desert. She questions her project, mirroring Luiselli herself no doubt:

"Political concern: How can a radio documentary be useful in helping more undocumented children find asylum? Aesthetic problem: On the other hand, why should a sound piece, or any other form of storytelling, for that matter, be a means to a specific end? I should know, by now, that instrumentalism, applied to any art form, is a way of guaranteeing really shitty results: light pedagogic material, moralistic young adult novels, boring art in general. Professional hesitance: But then again, isn't art for art's sake so often an absolutely ridiculous display of intellectual arrogance? Ethical concern: And why would I even think that I can or should make art with someone else's suffering?"

In part two of the story, the narration shifts to her ten year old son, who takes along his five year old sister as they run away from their parents to find some "lost children" and make their way to a location of importance to the Apache tribe, whose genocidal destruction is the focus of the husband. This section culminates in a 20 page long sentence in which his viewpoint alternates with that of a small group of lost refugee children who seem to physically emerge from a book he and the mother have been reading in a whirlwind of, what, neo-magical realism?

Overall for me it is a novel that is intellectual, produces lots to discuss, and is moderately enjoyable as a work of fiction.

m
msdelrios
Mar 24, 2020

Feb-March 2020

r
readonandon
Mar 14, 2020

Barack Obama recommendation

e
Exlibris_1
Feb 07, 2020

I don't know what to say but perhaps the times we live in have allowed us to expect this sorry mess to be described as a novel. I'll carry on trying but it seems to be painting by numbers mixed with some bizarre notion of profundity. I like nothing more than a mixed media approach to the novel but this is reportage and navel gazing and an ill-formed oddity. Very disappointed.

PimaLib_SWBooks Feb 06, 2020

This book was submitted for consideration for the 2019 Southwest Books of the Year list in the Fiction category!

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