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Lost City Radio Paperback – February 5, 2008

4.2 out of 5 stars 30 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

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.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 257 pages
  • Publisher: Harper Perennial; Reprint edition (February 5, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0060594810
  • ISBN-13: 978-0060594817
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #105,825 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Lost City Radio tells the story of a country, not unlike Peru, recovering from a long and divisive civil war between the government and a grass roots terrorist organization. Alarcon uses the structure of a family to narrate his story, not that the family is vaguely regular, consisting of lovers and children, unknowing wives and husbands leading more than one life. It is, in many ways, as much of a parable as anything, but Alarcon is a sharp, intelligent writer. You may well guess the secrets of the plot, but Alarcon isn't concerned as much with the secrets, but the banality behind them and the anguish that they cause. The novel is highly fragmented, jumping in location, time, narrator, but it's to Alarcon's credit that it's easy to follow, fluid. All in all, it's an impressive piece of work, welded together by a melancholy mixture of silence and memory. Definitely, worth your time.
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Format: Hardcover
In a world riven by sectarian violence and stalked by ethnic tension and the conflict it spawns, it's all too tempting simply to turn away from stark images of terrorist bombings or to flick the remote control to revel in the story of the latest celebrity embarrassment. In his quietly haunting first novel, LOST CITY RADIO, Peruvian-born American writer and author of the widely-praised short story collection WAR BY CANDLELIGHT, Daniel Alarcón, forces us to confront the inhumanity of these conflicts and the toll they exact on both participants and bystanders.

LOST CITY RADIO is set in an unnamed South American country a decade after the government has crushed the 10-year-long rebellion of a group of insurgents dubbed the "Illegitimate Legion." The war's inciting grievance, if there was one, was soon forgotten and yet the battles raged on, devastating urban neighborhoods and depopulating the towns and villages that dot the countryside. Rey, one of the novel's main characters, muses that the war "would have happened anyway. It was unavoidable. It's a way of life in a country like ours."

Rey is an "ethobotanist committed to the preservation of disappearing plant species." Near the end of the conflict he vanishes in the vicinity of a jungle village renamed "1797," as part of a government program to eradicate vestiges of local history by replacing traditional place names with numbers. Each Sunday night his widow, Norma, hosts a wildly popular program entitled "Lost City Radio" on the government-owned radio station during which she fields calls from people looking for missing family members, many of them victims of the political violence and others simply erased from the lives of their loved ones by the country's advancing urbanization.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In the early 1980's, Daniel Alarcon's family fled the rising political violence in Peru and began a new life in a leafy, suburb of Birmingham, Alabama. Alarcon's comfortable childhood was spent far away from the terrible violence that was to eventually claim over 60,000 victims. One of those victims was Alarcon's uncle, a well respected college professor who was kidnapped and never heard from again. Although, Alarcon's immediate family sat out the war in the United States, it nevertheless still haunts him and serves as the inspiration for many of Alarcon's short stories in his execellent first book, "War by Candlelight" and is at the front and center of his debut novel, "Lost City Radio."

Sendero Luminoso's often times bizarre campaign to bring down the Peruvian State has been well documented in a number of non-fiction books. It is fairly easy to chronicle the War's story of terrorist bombings, blackouts, army massacres and political assasinations. However, there is another human truth of that conflict that requires the skill and insight of the novelist. I lived in Peru during the mid 1980's and experienced many of the events that are thinly veiled in this story. Through the medium of the novel, Alarcon has been able to successfully recreate the atmosphere and tension that existed at the time. This novel beautifully captures the devestation that survives the end of a long and dirty war.

Finally, it is a sweet oddity of globalization that one of the emerging voices of Latin American literature is a child of the suburbs of Alabama. "Lost City Radio" is an impressive debut novel and is highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
In the late 1980s, I served as a Marine Corps recruiter in South Texas where it was my goal to enlist three recruits a month into the armed forces. At the time, "making mission" was all that mattered to me since I knew the Corps would take good care of my enlistees once they entered boot camp.

Then came the first Gulf War, and I started getting phone calls from parents worried about their sons and daughters. Questions such as "Have you heard from Anthony?" "Do you think Maria will have to spend nights in a foxhole?" And the question "Will they all come back home safe?" assaulted me during the day and haunted me at night.

The calls brought back carefree images of teenagers, eager to serve their country, who now faced the possibility of coming home in body bags. These names, and many more, crept back into my consciousness as I read Daniel Alarcón's mesmerizing debut novel, "Lost City Radio."

Alarcón, a Peruvian native who lives in Oakland, where he teaches at Mills College, weaves a harrowing tale of guerrilla warfare in an unnamed South American country that focuses on the devastation inflicted on the lives of family members who are left behind to wonder, worry and weep about loved ones fighting in a conflict in which no one really knows who's right or wrong, or worse yet, how it will all end, if ever.

While the war is the epicenter of the novel, we view it through the lives of three principles who try to make sense of the turmoil the insurgency has dumped upon their lives. Each tries to find answers in the chaos the fighting has brought to their town and village, but with the fog of war prevalent, they seemingly settle on adapting, surviving, and praying for any kind of closure to the mayhem.
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