Video Book Review: Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli

Lost Children Archive begins with an end.

Mother and father had fallen in love, almost desperately, and merged their lives and children together into a family. But now, we’re at the end of that union and the love that was one so desperate is now bogged down by the realities of everyday life.

Together, they had built a life full of the small intimacies and rituals that comprise a family and the soundtrack of the lives together. Small sounds and sayings, the choreography of getting ready in the morning, all of the things that comprise the familiarity and comfort of everyday life together.

That comfort for the two adults has become stale. The passion that brought them together has fizzled under the weight of reality. Now, they’re on one last road trip before ending their marriage.

Mom and Dad both work as sound documentarians, gathering the noises of life and stitching them together to create narratives. But the thing that once bonded them now separates them, as they move in different professional paths and spend the road trip constantly arguing over what to listen to.

What’s interesting is that even though this book spans miles, its primary makeup is in its moments of stillness. I can imagine long, languid afternoons with the sound recorder set up to gather all of the sounds that one can only capture in pure stillness. With the stories that they tell each other, with the arguments over audiobooks and what to listen to on the radio, instead of speeding over terrain with this family, we linger in the moments.

Similar to the sound recordings, we stitch together a narrative of their lives through the almost ambient recordings of their lives and conversations.

Sensing the inevitable end of the marriage and thus their family, 10-year-old son takes five-year-old daughter and they run away, thinking that it will bring the family back together. Of course, the children get in over their heads and are soon lost, frighteningly so. Mother, who has been focusing her professional efforts on documenting these lost children; children of immigrants who managed to slip through the system and go missing, now faces lost children of her own.

I rushed through these parts of Lost Children Archive, while boy and girl were missing and trying to find their way back home. I was so frightened that something bad would happen to them, but then the author cleverly brought in the lost children of immigrants into the mix, as well.

It made me realize that this desperate fear I felt for boy and girl is the same desperate fear I should be feeling for the lost children. They’re separated from their parents, out in the desert, alone with nothing but each other, starving and sometimes dying because of the elements.

Their stories are just as tragic as that of boy and girl.

Music credit: YouTube