Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli


“Stories are a way of subtracting the future from the past, the only way of finding clarity in hindsight.”

Valeria Luiselli

Synopsis: 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.

The whole set-up of this book is like an archive. Every part of this book is centered around the work of the mother and father. They are documentarians, focusing on the sounds around them. The first part is told from the pov of the mother. The story is told through short entries, like a diary. I enjoyed this way of telling the story, figuring out what is going on by short pieces of text. Throughout the book are seven boxes spread. Seven boxes the family take with them on their trip to the Apaches. Occasionally we get a view inside one of the boxes the family is taking with them. Through these boxes we see their life. The most important possessions they need. The books they take with them, the notebooks, clippings, photos, and other documents.

In the first part we read about the family going on a trip and the reasons behind this. The family consisting of the mother, father, boy and girl, are leaving their life behind to follow the father’s work. We learn about the father’s obsession with the Apaches, and the mother’s obsession with the lost children. Although the topics in this book are serious, the trip and the children keep the story light as well. There are activities along the way, which they do with the children, to make the trip fun as well. The balance between this lightness of the story, and the seriousness of the topics is done wonderful.

The second part of the book follows the pov of the boy. The children are very young, but sometimes manage to say these things that are so intelligent. Their way of thinking is remarkable. This part was heartbreaking, and I feared for the children and the parents. Children often think that they are more independent and think the world is easier than it really is. This was exactly the case in this part.

I did expect more about the lost children. We get this whole background and stories about lost children, but it enver reaches the climax I expected. The subject stayed too superficial and in the background in my opinion. Nevertheless I highly enjoyed the story, even though it was more about other subjects. Perhaps the reason behind this is that the stories about the lost children are there, but are never getting enough attention. It’s like they are pushed away by other news or are being ignored. A bit like it was being done in this book.

I gave this book 4/5 stars.

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