A timely novel involving themes of our current immigration system and Native American history. The author delves into the complexities of love, loss, marriage and family set against the harsh landscape of the American West. A powerful, eloquent exploration of the way we choose to preserve our past through sight and sound. — Whitney Kaaz
February 2019 Indie Next List
“Really incredible fiction takes you on a journey, and somewhere along the way you realize how much of it reflects your own reality. In Lost Children Archive, Valeria Luiselli’s narrator is highly observant of her inner life and the world around her. She unravels a story that’s about family and how walls between people and nations are built — and what they damage. In reading this book, I felt like I was in the car on the family’s road trip — feeling all the conflicting emotions that Luiselli’s narrator is feeling as a partner, mother, and resident in today’s United States.”
— Zoey Cole, Books Are Magic, Brooklyn, NY
“The novel truly becomes novel again in Luiselli’s hands—electric, elastic, alluring, new.” --Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
"Impossibly smart, full of beauty, heart and insight . . . Everyone should read this book." --Tommy Orange
From the two-time NBCC Finalist, an emotionally resonant, fiercely imaginative new novel about a family whose road trip across America collides with an immigration crisis at the southwestern border--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.
About the Author
Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Korea, South Africa and India. An acclaimed writer of both fiction and nonfiction, she is the author of the essay collection Sidewalks; the novels Faces in the Crowd and The Story of My Teeth; and, most recently, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions. She is the winner of two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes and an American Book Award, and has twice been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Kirkus Prize. She has been a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" honoree and the recipient of a Bearing Witness Fellowship from the Art for Justice Fund. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Granta, and McSweeney's, among other publications, and has been translated into more than twenty languages. She lives in New York City.
“Luiselli’s imagination is keen and uninhibited. Lost Children Archive is a retelling of the American road novel, with a twist. In this version, the journey has been taken to save a marriage. Luiselli is a superb chronicler of children; the daughter and son feel piercingly real—perceptive, irreplaceable, wonderfully odd. The book [is] an archive of curiosities, yearnings, animated by the narrator’s restless energy. [Then it] breaks out of the rhythms of the road trip, into a heart-stopping climax… The novel truly becomes novel again in Luiselli’s hands—electric, elastic, alluring, new.” —Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
“Daring, wholly original, brilliant. . .fascinating. What Luiselli has pulled off here is a twist on the great American road trip novel, a book about alienation that chronicles fractures, divides, and estrangement—of both a family and a country. It’s a remarkable feat of empathy and intellectuality that showcases Luiselli’s ability to braid the political, historical, and personal while explicitly addressing the challenges of figuring out how to tell the very story she’s telling. Luiselli is an extraordinary writer [with] a freewheeling novelist’s imagination.”—Heller McAlpin, NPR “Engrossing…brilliantly intricate and constantly surprising—a passionately engaged book [with] intellectual amplitude and moral seriousness, [and] a beautiful, loving portrait of children and of the task of looking after them. The kids are utterly alive, hurling questions and mangling adult signals: we are with the family, inside their Volvo wagon, or looking over their shoulders as they eat in diners and stay in motels. It is a pleasure to be a part of the narrator’s family; just as pleasurable is the access we gain to the narrator’s mind—a comprehensive literary intelligence. She thinks about belonging and not belonging, and about borders and the dead. As this complex novel turns, the back-seat kids are the ones who must tell the story. . . what ensues is a gripping and fantastical tale. An intensely allusive, beguiling mixture of the real and the doubly invented. Luiselli [is] playful and brave.” —James Wood, The New Yorker “Luiselli is a master. Not since Lolita has a road trip so brilliantly captured the dark underbelly of the American dream, the gulf between its promise and reality. Luiselli confronts big picture questions: What does it mean to be American? To what lengths should we go to bear witness? Will history ever stop repeating itself? All the while, her language is so transporting, it stops you time and again.” —Carmen Maria Machado, O Magazine
“Urgent, profound, and poetic, this is a modern classic in the making, one that should be considered required reading . . . Threading together a rich tapestry of heartbreaking stories is the story of [one] family on the road. As their journey continues, it becomes clear that something else is driving this family to the Arizona-Mexico border—something of much greater importance than their projects, their careers, and even themselves. Lost Children Archive asks important questions about the nature and importance of storytelling, fictional and factual. It is a layered narrative about family, immigration, justice, and hope. There is no simplicity in [the novel’s] structure, no easy ending. The story is still being written, being told, and perhaps most importantly, being heard.” —Sadie Trombetta, Bustle
“An epic road trip [that also] captures the unruly intimacies of marriage and parenthood... Luiselli’s mind is a delight; her writing shimmers like its desert setting. This is a novel that daylights our common humanity, and challenges us to reconcile our differences.” —Kristen Millares Young, The Washington Post
“In probing, elegant prose, Lost Children Archive maps one family’s road trip [through] a strange, beautiful, iconic landscape of gas stations, diners, and motels, [into] Apacheria, a place that contains the histories of ‘the last free peoples on the continent.’ The novel unfolds with great attention to voices, echoes and silences; it has a dreamlike rhythm that feels both urgent and reflective.” —Denise Delgado, WBUR “A resonant Great American Novel for our time—a dense and layered novel of the Americas, evocative of Kerouac and Bolaño, Rebecca Solnit and Juan Rulfo. There [is] a counterbalance of intimacy and inventiveness to Luiselli’s writing.” —Andy Tepper, Vanity Fair “Poignant…Though Lost Children Archive is unquestionably timely, it also approaches a certain timelessness, like all great novels. The novel reminds us how fragile family can be—a taut web where a slight move might turn the homespun constellation to chaos.Lost Children Archive is laced with the melancholy of last things…the stories told of the last Apaches, [and] also the choices of literary touchstones: Rilke, Woolf, Eliot, Pound. Luiselli leans on literary inspiration not out of need—her sentences are often as scintillating as those of her forebears—but out of the documentarian’s reverence for the archival impulse. Lost Children Archive hits the right pitch and finds the right surface, whispering back to us our own questions and concerns, reverberating with the headlines of the present, and the great art of the past. Like the struck match, [it makes] us aware of the dark, unknown space that surrounds it, of the ignorance that envelops everything we think we know. The maddeningly ‘relevant’ political novel is all the rage right now, but what separates Luiselli’s book from the pack is that it manages to be political without being propagandistic, rousing without any didacticism. This novel is the kind of book we need right now.” —Tyler Malone, Los Angeles Times
“Stories appear on the news, lacking in compassion, meant to inspire fear. But there are those trying to paint a fuller picture. Valeria Luiselli is one of those people. Lost Children Archive is a story, but also a response: to the articles, to literature, to the nonprofits and schools, to the American landscape, to ideas of family, and to ideas of choice. There is so much truth in this novel. In some ways, Lost Children Archive is like a love letter to literature. Luiselli is an exceptional writer who knows her craft; this is a beautiful text, in which everyone is searching for connection and reconnection—a novel asking for more consideration, more mercy, and more action.” —Abigail Bereola, San Francisco Chronicle
“The spirit of Bolaño animates this novel about our American-made border crisis. What starts as fragmented narrative gives way to a suspenseful climax. Lost Children Archive is a story about all American sins.” —Boris Kachka, Vulture
“Luiselli writes like a poet. Intelligent and patient, her telling of this historical moment of walls and inhumanity breaks open the mystery that surrounds immigration, making visceral a reality that few regard when thinking about the lives involved. She is ethnographer and activist, fictionalizing political work as she is immersed in it. A heartbreaking book.”—Lucy Kogler, Lit Hub “A highly imaginative, politically deft portrait of childhood within a vast American landscape—a rollicking tale that contains within it an extremely disciplined exercise in political empathy. For her upside-down Western, Luiselli adopts the Virginia Woolf technique by which the minds of characters are linked as they watch the same objects move through the same sky. Luiselli takes the minds of children seriously, and the reader witnesses their intelligent eyes and ears recording each detail of the borderlands and registering the full terror of them. The reader becomes aware, subtly, of how language shapes what it describes, as the children’s speech mixes fragments of what they hear with their own, weirder inner lexicon. . . . Luiselli braids and reworks disparate texts…[characters’] experiences overlap to create a patchwork representation of how America might see itself. There’s no way to convey through quotation the effect of the novel’s most thrilling section, a single sentence sustained for some twenty pages near the end, which remains measured and crystalline, expertly controlling plot, setting, character, fluctuating views and moods and voices . . . Luiselli shows the reader something she wouldn’t normally see, and also maps the past onto the present in ways that can reveal hidden contours in both.” —Lidija Haas, Harper’s
“Luiselli is one of the most fascinating and impassioned authors at work today. Lost Children Archive is a haunting hybrid of lyrical storytelling and political fury—a powerful indictment of the cruelty and inhumanity inherent in the current American immigration system, and a vital work for the Trump era.” —Dan Sheehan, LitHub “This novel is the epic Luiselli’s fans have been waiting for: the story of a road trip across America, a family journey mirroring the course of a nation in trouble.” —Vulture “Lost Children Archive reads like a memory. It unfolds in vignette-like scenes and takes you deep into the head space of its narrators. Luiselli is an imaginative writer; her work as an advocate for asylum-seekers informs the novel’s skillful blend of family story and issue-driven themes. The characters join people forced to face separation and relocation to unfamiliar territory, their current situation an echo of so many others—echoes [that] will remain in the mind of the reader as well.” —Trisha Ping, Book Page
“Luiselli’s new novel maps a crumbling young family’s journey across the United States in search of the stolen home of the Apaches amid a national backlash against immigrants. Luiselli trains an analytical eye on the tropes she’s dealing with, drawing out threads that we use to define fuzzy ideas like a family, and holding them up to the light.” —Claire Fallon, HuffPost “Powerful and timely.” —Sarah Stiefvater, PureWow “Spellbinding, haunting… Luiselli weaves a complex narrative from the migrant crisis on the southern U.S. border. It begins as an astute study of marriage and family; as the family travels farther on ‘the long, lonely roads of this country,’ the novel's sense of desolation widens. Underlying it all is a huge borderland haunted by vanished cultures, by migrant children who perished in the wilderness. Luiselli breaks up her narrative with inventories, lists, quotes, maps, poems, photos, stories, statistics and more, blended into the book in a metafictional way so that, like her protagonists, Luiselli becomes an archivist, assembling reality from many disparate sources. The cumulative effect is powerful.” —Scott Neuffer, Shelf Awareness “An ambitious road-trip novel that traverses geography, ideology, and time, while exploring the dissolution of a marriage, Lost Children Archive is heartbreakingly relevant to the humanitarian crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border. Luiselli has a gift for layering on the themes while also honing in on what makes the political so personal.” —A.V. Club
“Poignant, intense, keenly timely . . . Luiselli is no stranger to inventive storytelling; [this] latest work is perhaps her most politically relevant. A couple and their children embark on a cross-country road trip from New York City to Arizona; the scale of the migrant crisis redirects their efforts. Stories of Latin American asylum seekers and the disappeared Apaches overlap and converge; themes of translation and migration resonate. This is one of few novels that fully and powerfully conveys the urgency of this unsettling situation.” —Diego Báez, Booklist (starred review)
“A gorgeous and vital ghost-rich soundscape, and one of the most brilliant portrayals of child-parent relationships I have ever read. Luiselli floods extraordinary light onto childhood, parenthood, the literary consciousness, and how we make sense of past and present pain. LOST CHILDREN ARCHIVE is one of the best novels I’ve read in recent years, and one of the most important.” —Max Porter, author of Grief is the Thing With Feathers
“ Valeria Luiselli writes with so much intelligence and compassion and originality, her work always astonishes me. LOST CHILDREN ARCHIVE is absolutely phenomenal.” —Claire-Louise Bennett, author of Pond
“A haunting hybrid of lyrical storytelling and political fury, the book is a powerful indictment of the cruelty and inhumanity inherent in the current American immigration system.” —Dan Sheehan, LitHub
“Engrossing.” —Southern Living
"Impossibly smart, full of beauty, heart and insight, LOST CHILDREN ARCHIVE is a novel about archiving all that we don’t want to lose. It is an ode to sound. Valeria Luiselli looks into the American present as well as its history: into Native American history, and the many intersections between American and Mexican history that are and have always been there. This is a road trip novel that transcends the form, while also being the perfect American road trip novel for right now. Everyone should read this book.” —Tommy Orange
“Remarkable, inventive. . . . A family treks south to the U.S.-Mexico border, bearing tales of the anguish of migrant families all the way down. The opening sections are thick with literary references and social critique; imagine On the Road rewritten by Maggie Nelson. But the story darkens as they witness the [families’] plight firsthand, and later, as the couple's children stumble into their own crisis. As the novel rises to a ferocious climax, Luiselli thunderously, persuasively insists that reckoning with the border will make deep demands of our emotional reserves. A powerful border story, at once intellectual and heartfelt.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred review) “Superb, powerful, eloquent. Juxtaposing rich, poetic prose with direct storytelling, and alternating narratives with photos, documents, poems, maps, and music, LOST CHILDREN ARCHIVE explores what holds a family and society together, and what pulls them apart. The novel begins with a family embarking on a road trip, and culminates in an indictment of the tragic shortcomings of the immigration process. Luiselli demonstrates how callousness toward other cultures erodes our own. Her novel makes a devastating case for compassion.” —Publishers Weekly (starred review)