Publisher: 4th Estate
Book Depository: Hardback
A married couple embark on a journey from New York to Arizona with their children from previous relationships. The husband wishes to research the Apaches, but the wife wishes to research lost migrant children and find her friend’s two lost daughters. There is an overwhelming sense that the couple are going to separate at the end of this journey, but we are never fully made aware of why this is.
This concept sounds intriguing, but unfortunately is not executed as well as I had hoped. The entire first half feels extraordinarily constructed, to the point where it doesn’t sound real whatsoever, and Luiselli relies on other literary or musical works to further her plot. The second half didn’t particularly work for me either. It is narrated by the husband’s ten year old son and the problem for me, is that he sounds nothing like a ten year old, which is extremely jarring for the story.
One thing I did enjoy about the book was some of the symbolism and the way Luiselli firmly denounces the way migrant children are treated by the American law and media. This is a relevant argument at a time when there is a president who literally wants to divide a continent with a wall in order to prevent people from escaping a life of violence.
On the other hand, the novel did become unclear and confusing at times. I couldn’t see why the couple were going to be breaking their family apart when they seemed to be enjoying themselves for the most part. I think this looming sense of marital dread detracted from the important messages slightly.
I can understand why this one hasn’t been chosen for the shortlist, as it is convoluted and messy in places. I can imagine it being quite divisive among readers also. All of that being said, I would be interested in giving the author a second chance, because, despite not being delivered in the way I would prefer, I thought the concept in general was fantastic.
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