Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

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Analysis

Lost Children Archive is a novel by Valeria Luiselli. The story centers on a family that takes a road trip from New York to Arizona in an old Volvo to visit Apacheria, the ancestral land of the Apache Nation. The father is an audio-based ethnographer who conducts field recordings of ancient North American cultures, and the mother is a radio journalist. These two similar occupations were carefully chosen by the author to depict the multiple voices in American culture. In one scene, the mother listens to a radio news report about the immigration crisis at the US-Mexico border, where many immigrant families are displaced and detained, including children.

Interestingly, the family is headed to a Native American territory, which subtly evokes questions about ownership of the United States, as it's juxtaposed with the news reports about "illegal immigrants" trying to come into the country. The other geographical reference is the road trip itself. The family drives across the American landscape—both in terms of geography and culture—to observe the wide variety of Americans with different social classes, political beliefs, and philosophies in life.

However, the story also examines the chasm between the mother and father, and how the quiet but brooding tension causes that chasm in their marriage to widen. The father is interested in documenting the voices of the past, and yet he tries to suppress the voices in his head regarding his failing marriage. Likewise, the mother is a journalist interested in current events, and yet she struggles to make sense of the turmoil in her own family life.

As the family continues their physical journey through the American landscape, they also traverse the geography of their mind. The road trip is both an external and internal journey, and each member of the family—especially the mother and father—learns a life lesson by the end of their trip.