I first encountered Maria Amparo Escandon in her lovely little novel, Esperanza’s Box of Saints which made me a die hard fan for life so it was with great joy that I finally got to meet her at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books. Ms. Escandon was charming and very gracious. While there, I bought Gonzalez and Daughter Trucking Co. and brought it home to read. While I expected a wonderful story, I in no way expected to be so moved, so absorbed. I finished the book in less than a day and have to say that this far surpasses her first novel. I loved it!
Gonzalez and Daughter is the story of Libertad and her father Joaquin who was once a professor in Mexico City in the time of the massacre at Tlateloco told by a woman in a Mexicali Prison for women who has taken for her nickname, Libertad.
For reasons I won’t get into (buy the book), Joaquin escapes into the United States and becomes a trucker. Libertad grows up in the 18-wheeler and the book is littered with wonderful characters, interesting stories within stories and the growing pains of a young girl who longs for a home that doesn’t move. Libertad and her father love books. He is after all, a former college professor. They have no room in the truck to store all the books and so when they are finished with a book, they toss it out the window and onto the highway.
Their story is a beautiful one, filled with love, loss, misunderstanding and the trials of life. It is about learning and growing, about friendships made and true devotion. I was sad to finish it and happy to find out what happened to them.
There are other stories as well, as Libertad is a Mexican-American Scheherazade, jealously guarding her stories until the next week’s installment of the prison Library Club. Both the prisoners and the reader are caught in the spell of Escandon’s masterful pen and we hold our breath captivated by it.
I, even now an hour after finishing the last chapter am still enthralled and will read it again tomorrow and probably a few more times before sending it on to a loved one currently stationed in Iraq in the hopes of brightening his time there. Having typed that last sentence, I realize I can’t part with the book and will just go out and buy another copy to send as well as maybe a few more because this is a book that just screams to be shared, to be talked about, to share passages with your dearest friend.