Thursday, October 25, 2012

Border Crossing

Border Crossing Jessica Lee Anderson

Manz's mother is an alcoholic, a sometimes painter who is still reeling from a stillbirth. His dead father was crazy. Manz's best friend has an abusive father.

Manz and Jed get a job over the summer at a local ranch where Manz meets Vanessa, one of the kitchen worker. Only, when Manz hears about Operation Wetback*, he starts thinking that the government is starting it up again. Even though Manz is a citizen, US-born of a white citizen mother, the voices in his head tell him everyone else is in on it, tell him that the government will ship him to Mexico, unless he can stop it.

As the voices grow louder and louder, Manz can't stop them, can't not do what the tell him. He doesn't realize that no one else can hear them.

On the surface this is an ISSUE NOVEL. Paranoid Schizophrenia! Alcoholism! Domestic Abuse! Immigration! Dead babies!

But, in execution, told through Manz's eyes it's not heavy-handed. It's just the way things are. The real story is Manz's worsening condition. Anderson does a good job of letting the reader know what is "real" and what isn't. Part of this is that she does a good job of setting everything up before Manz starts to lose his grip on reality.

It's a fast-moving, compact book. I like the ending-- there's resolution, without it being super-tidy.

Interestingly, I just saw this photo on another book jacket--American Dervish by Ayad Akhtar. Same cover photo, different nationalities. Hmmm...

Operation Wetback was a pretty extreme anti-illegal immigration/deportation program in the early 50s.

ARC Provided by... the publisher, at ALA a few year ago.

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