Monday, February 26, 2007

Book Review: Lost City Radio by Daniel Alarcon

'One man's freedom fighter," it has been said, "is another's man's terrorist." In his debut novel, Lost City Radio, Daniel Alarcon reminds that one man's freedom fighter is probably another woman's husband, another boy's father, certainly another man's son.

Set in a fictional Latin American republic, Lost City Radio depicts the trauma inflicted upon a society when these freedom fighters - be they vigilantes or soldiers on the side of the government - simply disappear.

The book takes its title from a popular radio show in what Alarcon calls "the provincial capital." Each Sunday, the station broadcasts the names of the disappeared.

"The idea was simple. How many refugees had come to the city? How many of them had lost touch with their families? Hundreds of thousands? Millions?"

The voice connecting the lost with the found belongs to Norma, a brave, beautiful and damaged journalist whom Alarcon brings vividly to life. Her husband, Rey, has been missing for more than a decade.

Alarcon's portrait of the emotional toll this loss takes on Norma is heartrending. A decade later, she still sleeps alone, facing the door to her bedroom, as if Rey might still walk through the door.

Lost City Radio then cycles backward to tell the story of the country's war, the way it fractured the committed from the fearful, the urban from the rural, and the collaborative from the resistant.
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