Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Amanda Heller reviews Daniel Alarcón's Lost City Radio
We have been here before, in the totalitarian brave new world of "Lost City Radio." This self-defeated place has no name, though that of the author's native Peru will do as well as any other.

The heroine of the novel, Norma, is her unhappy country's earth mother of the airwaves. On her radio show she reads aching messages from people looking for loved ones separated over years of war and disruption or, more likely, "disappeared" into the grasp of a vicious regime. What her listeners do not know is that Norma's husband, Rey, is among the missing. Rey has a second, secret life, which Norma suspects, as a member of the underground insurgency, and another about which she knows nothing until a boy from the exotic interior makes his way to the city seeking her help.

An expansive political fable, an urgent mystery, a story of doomed love: Daniel Alarcón has chosen no easy assignment for his first novel. Fortunately his talent is equal to the task. No one in the compromised world of "Lost City Radio" is as innocent as we suppose or as guilty as charged by a paranoid dictatorship. Alarcón relates this haunting tale in shades of gray, breaking the rules for concocting a fable but honoring those for conveying truth.

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