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Capsule Review

Lost Children Archive: A Novel

In This Review

Lost Children Archive: A Novel
Lost Children Archive: A Novel
By Valeria Luiselli
Knopf, 2019, 400 pp. Purchase

The daring fiction and nonfiction of Luiselli, a New York–based, Mexican-born writer, combine literary brilliance, empathetic politics, and a dazzling imagination. She has the intellectual firepower to be her generation’s Susan Sontag (whose interest in collection, documentation, and memory Luiselli references) but possesses an even wider, more global sensibility. In her novel Lost Children Archive, Luiselli conjures a couple with two young children, aged ten and five, on a long road trip from New York to the southwestern United States in search of the grave of the Apache leader Geronimo. The novel’s “lost children” include the last Apaches as well as today’s desperate young migrants from Central America. Eventually (spoiler alert), the couple’s two children go missing. Luiselli envisions the Southwest as desolate and haunted by genocide, a xenophobic wasteland occupied by a brutal border patrol. The loving interplay between the two children lightens the brooding atmosphere. Miraculously, the children never quarrel during long hours of driving, instead amusing themselves with songs, word games, and fantasies. In Luiselli’s deft hands, children are our shame and our redemption.

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