Review: Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli

lost children archive valeria luiselli

Rating: ★★★★☆

Genres: Contemporary Fiction


Lost Children Archive tells the story of a family on a road trip across the United States during Summer. As they go through what might be the last trip they take as a family, heading towards the area known as Apacheria, where the father tries to capture the echoes of the last people to give in to the white invaders, while the mother works on a collection of sounds that will, hopefully, together tell the story of the refugee children that are lost.

On the surface, this book is about a family trip, and with gorgeous writing the author takes us through the hot days, the slow pace of the story mirroring, I think, the pacing of something that is already a memory, a Summer day from years ago. But the story is truly about family, refugees, history, how documenting is important and the different ways of documenting. Quite fascinating!

It took me quite a few chapters before I got used to the way the story is told, however – there are lots of quotes and references to other books, which break the narrative often. I see how this also enriches the narrative, but to me it was just breaking the rhythm and annoyed me a bit. Otherwise, the writing is quite literary, and the author does play around a lot with the style, including a chapter with multiple point of view flow of consciousness like in Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf, which is difficult(ish) to read but always interesting.

I like this book more the more I think of it, although my immediate impression upon finishing it was that it was a 3.5 stars read that felt a little like a chore. I did like the way the author plays with literary references, with foreshadowing and delves deeply into the difficult topic that is the children that are simply never found again. There is also a lot about Apaches, which for me, as a non-American, was not a topic I was too familiar with. This book has several layers when it comes to themes, and you get so much out of it, it’s truly a beautiful work.

On a separate note, I read this as an ebook, and could not see the photographs very well. I think Lost Children Archive is best consumed on physical format or as audio (which gives you extra files to check out, including the photographs). I’d be specially interested in the audio version, considering this is a book that explores documentation mostly via sound.

7 thoughts on “Review: Lost Children Archive, by Valeria Luiselli

  1. I’m glad you liked this somewhat! I will add that even as an American I don’t know much about the Apaches, but that may be because they were located on the opposite side of the country from me haha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Oh, that is interesting! I was wondering if it felt a bit too lecture-like for Americans the talking about Apaches. To me it was all new, so pretty interesting. A pity it didn’t get shortlisted!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Nice review! I had some of the same issues with this that you mention, but ultimately liked the story. The literary references did seem a bit over the top and it took me a while to get into the story, but in the end I loved what it accomplished. I was shocked this one didn’t advance!


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