Synopses & Reviews
A powerful and searing novel of three lives fractured by a civil war.
For ten years, Norma has been the voice of consolation for a people broken by violence. She hosts Lost City Radio, the most popular program in their nameless South American country, gripped in the aftermath of war. Every week, the Indians in the mountains and the poor from the barrios listen as she reads the names of those who have gone missing, those whom the furiously expanding city has swallowed. Loved ones are reunited and the lost are found. Each week, she returns to the airwaves while hiding her own personal loss: her husband disappeared at the end of the war.
But the life she has become accustomed to is forever changed when a young boy arrives from the jungle and provides a clue to the fate of her long-missing husband.
Stunning, timely, and absolutely mesmerizing, Lost City Radio probes the deepest questions of war and its meaning: from its devastating impact on a society transformed by violence to the emotional scarring each participant, observer, and survivor carries for years after. This tender debut marks Alarcón's emergence as a major new voice in American fiction.
"Set in a fictional South American nation where guerrillas have long clashed with the government, Alarcón's ambitious first novel (after the story collection War by Candlelight) follows a trio of characters upended by civil strife. Norma, whose husband, Rey, disappeared 10 years ago after the end of a civil war, hosts popular radio show Lost City Radio, which reconnects callers with their missing loved ones. (She quietly entertains the notion that the job will also reunite her with her missing husband.) So when an 11-year-old orphan, Victor, shows up at the radio station with a list of his distant village's 'lost people,' the station plans a special show dedicated to his case and cranks up its promotional machine. Norma, meanwhile, notices a name on the list that's an alias her husband used to use, prompting her to resume her quest to find him. She and Victor travel to Victor's home village, where local teacher Manau reveals to Norma what she's long feared and more. Though the mystery Alarcón makes of the identity of Victor's father isn't particularly mysterious, this misstep is overshadowed by Alarcón's successful and nimbly handled portrayal of war's lingering consequences." Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Literature is fortunate to have such a promising, thought-provoking young writer." Library Journal
"Writing rapturously and elegiacally of the wildness in both jungle and city, creating indelible images that concentrate the horrors of war, and unerringly articulating the complex feelings of individuals caught in barbaric and senseless predicaments, Alarcón reaches to the heart of our persistent if elusive dream of freedom and peace." Booklist (Starred Review)
"Alarcón has mapped a whole nation and given its war-torn history real depth an impressive feat." Kirkus Reviews
"Few first-time novelists skillfully pursue so many separate intentions history, mystery, cautionary tale or manage to coordinate their simultaneous unfolding. Lost City Radio is a bravura performance." Los Angeles Times
"There were moments while I was lost in [this] wonderfully imagined world...that I felt as though I were reading a novel by the...marvelous Uruguayan novelist Juan Carlos Onetti. I mean that as a compliment and as a writer's, as well as a critic's, doff of the hat." Alan Cheuse, San Francisco Chronicle
"Alarcón painstakingly reminds us that soldiers don't go into skirmishes alone; they take with them loved ones who yearn for an embrace and the chance to utter their names upon safe passage home." San Antonio Express-News
"[A]n impressive debut novel from Alarcón, who effortlessly moves between the emotional longing Norma lives with for years and the violent political power-struggle waged between the government and its opposing guerilla factions." Rocky Mountain News
"In the end, if Lost City Radio doesn't come together as the full realization of Alarcón's genius, it's simply because he himself is guilty of setting the bar so high." Minneapolis Star Tribune
"Lost City Radio
is indeed a wrenching commentary on the devastation war can inflict. But the mystery at the heart of this story is not political it's a riddle of the human heart." Marjorie Kehe, The Christian Science Monitor
(read the entire CSM review
Imparting comfort while reading the names of missing people to her war-ravaged listeners, top-rated radio host Norma finds her life irrevocably changed when a young boy from a remote jungle village provides a connection to her long-missing husband. By the author of War by Candlelight. 50,000 first printing.
About the Author
Daniel Alarcón's story collection, War by Candlelight, was a finalist for the 2006 PEN/Hemingway Award. He is the associate editor of Etiqueta Negra, an award-winning monthly magazine published in his native Lima, Peru. He lives in Oakland, California.