02 Jan / Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli [in Booklist]
Valeria Luiselli’s spectacular latest – her first fiction in English – also marks her co-narrator debut. The Mexican-born Luiselli is the dominant voice here; her accent slight, her enunciation careful. Only her collaboration could have enabled the affecting print-to-audio metamorphosis, choosing how photos, drawings, and maps might ‘sound’ and creating descriptive copy for 24 unmarked-on-the-page Polaroids at book’s end.
Part roadtrip (with audiobooks even), part family drama, part testimony, Archive features a woman and her five-year-old daughter, and a man and his 10-year-old son, who have been a family for four years. The man and woman met while documenting NYC’s 800-plus spoken languages. They’ve embarked cross-country to Arizona: the man to research the Apache people’s native lands; the woman to search for a friend’s missing daughters lost at the border.
Seven boxes hold the family’s lives – William DeMeritt interrupts briefly to tally the contents of the husband’s four. The woman has one, the children another each. Kivlighan de Montebello – whose earnest, elongated vowels turn rock to rawwk, spot to spawwt – embodies the son as he plans a journey-for-two that goes awry. Luiselli’s own child Maia Enrigue Luiselli provides soundscapes – more onomatopoeic memories than words – for Box VI.
Through a family in crisis, Luiselli lays bare the disconnects of what we hear, what we see, what we understand – and what we can’t, or simply won’t.