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Set in a nameless South American country in the midst of a brutal civil war, it is Norma who brings many people together, reuniting them in the midst of tragedy through her show Lost City Radio. Norma's last show leads to some interesting interpretations to the end of the novel.
Norma, of course, is first hired to simply read government propaganda. The issue is that people are losing their loved ones and long to know exactly what happened to them and where they are. This is what inspires Norma's Lost City Radio show. People send Norma lists of the missing. People call up claiming to be the missing. Some people are looking for the lost. Some are lost themselves, and looking to belong somewhere. Norma goes through many issues and thoughts in regard to this idea.
The last Lost City Radio show we hear of contains a scraggly boy who shows up out of nowhere revealing a list from the renamed town called "1797." The boy's name is Victor, and he holds the clue to the real reason why Norma began Lost City Radio: to find her lost husband. It turns out that Norma's husband, Rey, is listen in this town's missing. Norma finds out that Rey had a lover in this town and that Victor is the son. Here is where we get into some possible interpretations. Take a look at the following quotation:
[I wanted to resort to] some explosive act of violence: for the rending and tearing of some heirloom or photograph, the destruction of a meaningful item, some article of clothing, [but instead can only listen].
In learning that her husband is unfaithful, Norma struggles with the situation. She is only able to listen, wondering if Rey is still alive. We never truly learn the answer. Rey could still be alive. Maybe not. There is no reunification. There is only Norma and Victor now forced to define their own relationship. Are they stepmother and stepson? Are they mother and son? If Rey is dead, should she take care of the bastard child of his infidelity? There are no real answers. That is the entire point.
In conclusion, it's important to note that the entire piece is written as if we are scanning through the radio channels, constantly turning the dial. This is what creates the different interpretations. If you turn the dial in the middle of a radio talk show, you may never know what happens in the interim. Such is the case with Norma. The reader will never know the actual outcome of Rey and his wife, Norma. Further, the reader will never know the full outcome of the relationship between Victor and Norma. Mystery invites more imagination from the reader. Alarcón is the master.
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