Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Lost City Radio

Title: Lost City Radio
Author: Daniel Alarcón
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 257
Edition: Hardcover

Lost City Radio by Daniel Alarcón is a wonderfully evocative tale set in an unnamed Latin American Country during post-civil war era. Almost a decade had passed since the government crushed the local insurgents 'Illegimate Legion' (IL), but members of IL were still hunted down, tortured or killed. Villages and towns' names were replaced by numbers and citizens were made informants. People who lost their loved ones during the war turned to the popular radio show "Lost City Radio" hosted by Norma to trace their loved ones. Norma, the protagonist of the novel, mesmerized everyone with her honey-sweetened voice and her callers believed that she had magical powers to bring back their loved ones.
"How many refugees had come to the city? How many of them had lost touch with their families? Hundreds of thousands? Millions? ...Hers was the most trusted and well-loved voice in the country, a phenomenon she herself couldn't explain. Every Sunday night, for an hour, since the last year of the war, Norma took calls from people who imagined she had special powers, that she was mantic and all-seeing, able to pluck the lost, estranged, and missing from the moldering city. Strangers addressed her by her first name and pleaded to be heard. My brother, they'd say, left the village years ago to look for work in the city. His name is... He lives in a district called...He wrote us letters and then the war began. ... the callers revisited village life and all that had been left behind, inviting their lost people to remember with them: Are you there, brother? And Norma listened, and then repeated the names in her mellifluous voice, and the board would light up with calls, lonely red lights, people longing to be found..." Norma struggles with her past as her husband Rey, an ethnobotanist disappeared after the war and been missing ever since. When Rey disappeared into the jungle near a village 1797 at the end of the war, she felt totally devastated. Norma hoped in vain that she might find some clues about her missing husband as her show occasionally brought grand reunions. Norma's life takes an interesting turn when a 11-year-old boy Victor appears at the doorsteps of her studio, clutching a piece of parchment in his hands with names of several missing people from his village 1797. What she finds most disturbing is the fact that Victor was from the village 1797 where Rey was last seen and his list had one of the "other" names of Rey. Norma knew very little of Rey's double life when they lived together and as she puts together the missing pieces of the puzzle, she discovers some shocking truth about Rey and how her life is intertwined with Victor in its own odd ways. Not very often you come across a story as elegant and impressive as Lost City Radio and this book was a delightful read. Don't miss it!
My Rating: 4.5/5


Literary Feline said...

I am so glad to see you enjoyed his book! I read a book of short stories by this author awhile ago and knew that he was an author to watch. I hope to read this one someday. Thanks for a wonderful review!

Nyssaneala said...

This looks like a great book! Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

Happy Reader said...

@literary feline -
I believe you are talking about his book "War by Candlelight". I've heard some raving reviews about this short story collection. I am hoping to get my hands on it soon.
@nyssaneala -
Also look out for "War by Candlelight" by this author.