Review: THE LOST CHILDREN ARCHIVE by Valeria Luiselli (2019)

Genre: Adult Literary Fiction
Year Release: 2019
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: American border crisis, missing children

A family goes on a road trip to record voices and sounds, but as the trip moves south, the husband becomes obsessed with following the story of the Apaches, while the wife seeks to unravel the mystery of a Mexican friend’s two missing children. All while their own kids watch their parents’ marriage dissolve in real time.

An effective demonstration of the power of multi-media story-telling, this moving and inventive novel makes great use of shifting perspectives to tell a deeply personal story that works so well in its framing narrative.

This book does not shy away from any of its topics. The parental reflections and tensions while on a trip felt so true to life. The rituals, the car games, the types of arguments you get into, serve as a nice sense of new normal before the tensions of reality around them creep in. This lends itself really well to when reality slips away into nightmare and the stream of the novel-within-a-novel. It’s also particularly effective when the mother and the son’s voices merge in the last fifth of the book. Immersive and heart-wrenching.

Speaking of which, three-quarters through the book, the narration switches to the children. The way it recaps some of the previous events through a child’s eyes adds a layer of whimsy and nostalgia. I really enjoyed the portrayal of the relationship between the ten- and the five-year-old. It’s playful, until the fictional book The Lost Children comes into play, then it turns into almost a fairy tale.

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