The River of Lost Voices

Stories from Guatemala

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200 pages

“I was thoroughly and magically transported by The River of Lost Voices. These are tender, beautiful, touching stories about a Guatemala that is at once strange and universal. This is a remarkable collection from a new writer with a major talent.”—Robert Olen Butler, author of A Good Scent from Strange Mountain

“When you finish these wonderful stories about life in a small Guatemalan town, you might feel as if they were a dream you just had. Funny, strange, sad, and exquisite things happened, and there were so many marvelous and perturbing details that you can't get them out of your head; their mood takes you over like the afternoon rains.”—Francisco Goldman, author of The Long Night of the White Chickens

“These stories display Mark Brazaitis' uncanny ability to offer up one surprise after another with such authority that the strangest turns of plot soon seem as natural as wind or rain. The stories draw their energy from the fault lines of Guatemalan society, especially the internal divide between Spanish-speaking ladinos and Mayan indígenas (who are themselves divided, speaking many dialects).
Whether the subject is a Mayan detective falling in love, an illiterate plantation owner 'reading' books without words, or a missionary whose sermons get 'translated' into local myth, Brazaitis maps this complex territory with an astoundingly sure eye and a finely modulated style. What a fine new talent has appeared among us!”—Lewis Hyde, author of Trickster Makes This World

“Brazaitis has written a powerful collection about displacement, disappointment, and corruption but also about courage, humor, playfulness, and persistent hope. His stories of marginalized Guatemalans are by turn charming, unsettling, and moving—and they are told in language that sings.”—Elizabeth Graver, author of Unravelling

“The stories in The River of Lost Voices are unified not only by their vividly rendered Guatemalan settings but by the pervasive sense of folktale that is evident in both the magic of their imagery and the pleasing unpredictability of their forms.”—Stuart Dybek, author of Childhood and Other Neighbors and 1998 Iowa Short Fiction Award judge

“Mark Brazaitis's first collection of stories provides a harrowing account of life in a remote Guatemalan village where life is fleeting, poverty is commonplace and violence erupts with casual regularity. Like the silent teenager in the opening story, Brazaitis is the privileged observer hiding outside the villagers' shacks, tracking both the prosaic and the brutal with remarkable clarity.”—Maggie Garb, New York Times Book Review

“Alternately lyrical and hard-edged, surreal and all-to-real, Brazaitis' stories take the reader to a Guatemala that springs to life as surely and completely as Chandler's Los Angeles or Hemingway's Spain. It is a world that owes something to the sensuousness and magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, but for the most part Brazaitis has transmuted this influence and made this world his own…All in all, The River of Lost Voices is a superb collection from a new and most welcome voice in American fiction.”—Worldview

“Although The River of Lost Voices may be fiction, it is highly instructive. For those concerned specifically with Guatemala and its peoples, with the plight of indigenous peoples, or with social injustice, I recommend this book highly.”—James D. Lowry, Jr., Journal of Cultural Geography

Table of contents: 

José del Rio


A Detective’s Story

The Liar

The Whale

How They Healed

The Corner Kick

The Priest’s Daughter