Lost Children Archive
WINNER OF THE DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD AND THE RATHBONES FOLIO PRIZE
LONGLISTED FOR THE BOOKER PRIZE AND THE WOMEN’S PRIZE
The moving, powerful and urgent English-language debut from one of the brightest young stars in world literature
Suppose you and Pa were gone, and we were lost. What would happen then?
A family in New York packs the car and sets out on a road trip. A mother, a father, a boy and a girl, they head south west, to the Apacheria, the regions of the US which used to be Mexico. They drive for hours through desert and mountains. They stop at diners when they’re hungry and sleep in motels when it gets dark. The little girl tells surreal knock knock jokes and makes them all laugh. The little boy educates them all and corrects them when they’re wrong. The mother and the father are barely speaking to each other.
Meanwhile, thousands of children are journeying north, travelling to the US border from Central America and Mexico. A grandmother or aunt has packed a backpack for them, putting in a bible, one toy, some clean underwear. They have been met by a coyote: a man who speaks to them roughly and frightens them. They cross a river on rubber tubing and walk for days, saving whatever food and water they can. Then they climb to the top of a train and travel precariously in the open container on top. Not all of them will make it to the border.
In a breath-taking feat of literary virtuosity, Lost Children Archive intertwines these two journeys to create a masterful novel full of echoes and reflections – a moving, powerful, urgent story about what it is to be human in an inhuman world.
'Fascinating, haunting, poetic' Sunday Times
‘A mould-breaking new classic … The novel truly becomes novel again in her hands – electric, elastic, alluring, new’ New York Times
‘Daring, wholly original, brilliant … a twist on the great American road trip novel, a book about alienation that chronicles fractures, divides, and estrangement’ NPR
‘Timely and poignant’ Vogue
‘A wonderfully subtle story in which the experience of migrant children is filtered through the delicate, funny, effortlessly poetic account of a family’s road trip from New York to the Mexican border’ Guardian
‘Roving and beautiful … a searing indictment of America’s border policy' Daily Mail
‘Powerful and urgent’ Stylist
About the author
Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City in 1983. She is the author of the novels Faces in the Crowd and The Story of My Teeth, which won the 2016 LA Times Book Prize for Fiction; the essay collection Sidewalks; and Tell Me How It Ends, an essay about the situation faced by children arriving at the US-Mexico border without papers. Lost Children Archive is her first novel written in English.
Luiselli's powerful, eloquent novel begins with a family embarking on a road trip and culminates in an indictment of America's immigration system. An unnamed husband and wife drive, with their children in the backseat, from New York City to Arizona, he seeking to record remnants of Geronimo and the Chiricahua Apache, she hoping to locate two Mexican girls last seen awaiting deportation at a detention center. The husband recounts for the 10-year-old son and five-year-old daughter stories about a legendary band of Apache children. The wife explains how immigrant children become separated from parents, losing their way and sometimes their lives. Husband, wife, son, and daughter nickname themselves Cochise, Lucky Arrow, Swift Feather, and Memphis, respectively. When Swift Feather and Memphis go off alone, they become lost, then separated, then intermingled with the Apache and immigrant children, both imagined and all too real. As their parents frantically search, Memphis trades Swift Feather's map, compass, flashlight, binoculars, and Swiss Army knife for a bow and arrow, leaving them with only their father's stories about the area to guide them. Juxtaposing rich poetic prose with direct storytelling and brutal reality and alternating narratives with photos, documents, poems, maps, and music, Luiselli explores what holds a family and society together and what pulls them apart. Echoing themes from previous works (such as Tell Me How It Ends), Luiselli demonstrates how callousness toward other cultures erodes our own. Her superb novel makes a devastating case for compassion by documenting the tragic shortcomings of the immigration process.31 photos. 75,000-copy announced first printing.