"I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books."

Borges

Sunday, June 10, 2007

The Guardians: A Novel


The Guardians: A Novel
Author: Ana Castillo
Publisher: Random House
ISBN-10: 1400065003
ISBN-13: 978-1400065004

Ana Castillo is one of those writers that I always expect not just the best of, but the best of the best of. She certainly doesn’t disappoint in her lyrical new book The Guardians.

The book tells the story in four intersecting voices of the main protagonists. 50-something redheaded virgin widow Regina who is eking out a poor living on her desert land while working as an underpaid teacher’s aide and caring for her nephew is one of the voices. She’s a strong character and embodies self sufficiency, love and the desire to get ahead.

Regina’s raising Gabo, a deeply troubled and religious young man. His mother was murdered seven years before in a border crossing and her body mutilated for its organs. Now his father Rafa is missing and Regina begins a search. The search leads her to Miguel or Mike, a divorced teacher at the school where Regina works. Miguel becomes a friend to them both and helps Regina in the search for her brother.

These three and an unlikely fourth, Miguel’s grandfather Abuelo Milton form a strange band of searchers as they hunt for clues to Rafa’s disappearance. Each chapter is written in one of these fours voices and gives depth and an interesting spin to the story. We see the intersection and the different views of the people who are living it.

"I don't think they could come up with a horror movie worse than the situation we got going on en la frontera," as Abuelo Milton says.

Throughout the book is the story of desperation, the illegal crossings, the coyotes who take advantage of the people they bring across. Castillo weaves into this intricately elegant story the Juarez murders of women, the Minutemen, the politics and the desert border town. It’s an amazing feat. She compels with each word, breathes magic into her words and we’re there, in a border meth lab where border crossers are held hostage until their families can come up with the money to ransom them. We feel the desperation of crossing the desert, the thirst that kills, the desire to make it through, to come to a better life. The book stands as a political statement about immigration, the rights of women and I think most of all it is a cry of outrage.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good reading. For people who want to read the real story about the Juarez women's murders, drug cartels, etc., the investigative books by Diana Washington Valdez are "must read." Her English book is The Killing Fields: Harvest of Women, and the Spanish book (2005) is Cosecha de Mujeres.