From Publishers Weekly
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. (Feb.)
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Daniel Alarcón, a native of Peru, has personally witnessed the devastation he describes in his first full-length novel. Critics were full of praise for Alarcón's vivid descriptions, compelling characters, and refusal to side with any one political faction, though he obviously sympathizes with the country's dispossessed. While the Rocky Mountain News
was distracted by the country's lack of identity, most critics agreed that a specific name or place was unnecessary, given the fablelike nature of the story. Often compared to the work of William Faulkner and Gabriel García Márquez, Alarcón's harrowing tale of the breakdown of a society and the emotional price paid by its survivors will undoubtedly haunt you long after you've turned the last page. Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.