MLA Platinum Award Press Release

Summary and book reviews of Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

Lost Children Archive

A novel

by Valeria Luiselli

Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli X
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Feb 2019, 400 pages
    Paperback:
    Feb 2020, 400 pages

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Book Reviewed by:
Karen Lewis
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About this Book

Book Summary

From the two-time NBCC Finalist, an emotionally resonant, fiercely imaginative new novel about a family's road trip across America--an indelible journey told with breathtaking imagery, spare lyricism, and profound humanity.

A mother and father set out with their two children, a boy and a girl, driving from New York to Arizona in the heat of summer. Their destination: Apacheria, the place the Apaches once called home.

Why Apaches? asks the ten-year-old son. Because they were the last of something, answers his father.

In their car, they play games and sing along to music. But on the radio, there is news about an "immigration crisis": thousands of kids trying to cross the southwestern border into the United States, but getting detained--or lost in the desert along the way.

As the family drives--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 almost feel beneath their feet. They are led, inexorably, to a grand, harrowing adventure--both in the desert landscape and within the chambers of their own imaginations.

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, it takes us deep into the lives of one remarkable family as it probes the nature of justice and equality today.

Part I: Family Soundscape

Relocations
"An archive presupposes an archivist, a hand that
collects and classifies."
—Arlette Farge

"To leave is to die a little.
To arrive is never to arrive."
—Migrant prayer

Departure

Mouths open to the sun, they sleep. Boy and girl, foreheads pearled with sweat, cheeks red and streaked white with dry spit. They occupy the entire space in the back of the car, spread out, limbs offering, heavy and placid. From the copilot seat, I glance back to check on them every so often, then turn around to study the map again. We advance in the slow lava of traffic toward the city limits, across the GW Bridge, and merge onto the interstate. An airplane passes above us and leaves a straight long scar on the palate of the cloudless sky. Behind the wheel, my husband adjusts his hat, dries his forehead with the back of his hand.


Family Lexicon

I don't know what my husband and I will say to each of our children one day. I'm not sure which parts of ...

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Whom do you immediately associate with the "lost children" of the title? How many layers of getting lost appear throughout the novel, and is it always/only children who are lost?
  2. What are some of the reasons behind the family's trip to Apacheria? Discuss the parents' separate and combined work projects and their expectations for what will happen to the family once they reach their destination.
  3. What is the difference between a documentarian and a documentarist? How do the two forms of study, observation, interpretation, and synthesis make their way into the story of the family and the structure of the novel itself?
  4. Can you identify the source(s) of conflict between the husband and wife? Which memories of their early life together and time...
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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

Lost Children Archive is a feast of language and storytelling that chronicles a family road trip from New York City to Arizona. Valeria Luiselli's storylines follow the geographic trip and also examine the family's past and their implied future. The novel gains scholarly depth with details about the history of indigenous people in the United States, and a legacy of shifting borders and past migrations. That said, the book is not a simple travelogue, but a meandering literary feat with several interior twists and turns...continued

Full Review (909 words).

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(Reviewed by Karen Lewis).

Media Reviews

Washington Post
Does plot matter, when her deep thinking yields vital insights? Her mind is a delight... In the book’s late, lyric section, her writing shimmers like its desert setting, flickering among the minds of children walking to find a future. One sentence winds on for 20 pages in a rush of hope that does find its reward...Arguing for compassion, again and again, in recurrent narrative parallels, Luiselli refuses to resign herself to a lesser world.

New York Times
But what might one do after reading a novel that stirs pity and rage? Acutely sensitive to these misgivings, Luiselli has delivered a madly allusive, self-reflexive, experimental novel, one that is as much about storytellers and storytelling as it is about lost children...The elegies, foreshadowing the loss of a boy on a train, are riveting. They achieve a lyrical immediacy that makes us feel for those children atop the train. The brilliance of the writing stirs rage and pity. It humanizes us.

Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Superb, powerful, eloquent ... Luiselli demonstrates how callousness toward other cultures erodes our own. Her novel makes a devastating case for compassion.

Kirkus Reviews
Starred Review. Remarkable, inventive ... A powerful border story, at once intellectual and heartfelt.

Author Blurb Tommy Orange, author of There, There
Impossibly smart, full of beauty, heart and insight ... This is the perfect American road trip novel for right now. Everyone should read this book.

Author Blurb Claire-Louise Bennett, author of Pond
Luiselli writes with so much intelligence, compassion and originality, her work always astonishes me. Lost Children Archive is absolutely phenomenal.

Reader Reviews

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Beyond the Book

The Power of Polaroid Photography

First Polaroid CameraOnce upon a time, long before digital photography became commonplace, the only way to instantly see the results after taking a photo was by using a Polaroid instant camera. In Lost Children Archive, the narrator gives her stepson a Polaroid camera for his tenth birthday. He takes photos during their trip, and a series of Polaroid images is included in the novel itself.

Edwin Land – one of the co-founders of Polaroid in 1937 – was an avid inventor who experimented with varieties of photography. Fascinated by light, optics, and the possibilities of color imagery, he pioneered many inventions and would eventually hold more than 500 patents. The Polaroid Land Camera, the first instant camera, launched in 1948. It relied on ...

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Readalikes

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