A repetitive but beautifully written debut novel about a college graduate’s self-discovery.
When Annie turns 25, her life seems to be in order. Her live-in boyfriend, Max, opens a yoga studio; her career as a Web designer in San Francisco is thriving; and her mother, back in the Midwest, seems to be just fine. But when things in Annie’s life start to fall apart—with watershed moments often presented in sparse detail—she finds herself paralyzed. Instead of flying home to be with her family, she watches TV and doses herself with “sleepytime medicine.” This choice doesn’t quite match the intensity of Annie’s grief, though. Equally odd is Annie’s decision to keep the bad news a secret from her best friend, Prita, as well as from everyone at work. Instead of turning to friends and colleagues, she finds solace in a B&B in rural Drake’s Valley, Calif. Annie and Max initially planned to go to the valley together; now Annie drives to the countryside alone. She finds great comfort in the place, a Victorian house run by a taciturn woman known as “the souplady.” As the lady serves her soup, she tells Annie that it “Feeds the body, warms the soul.” Between the delectable soup and the refreshing sleep she enjoys, Annie soon establishes a routine of weekly visits to the B&B. Walking in the clear air with her camera in hand, she recalls her love of photography—a convenient time to remember it, since her Web design job isn’t going so well. Scenes of Annie at the Web design firm create a number of dull tangents: There are entire play-by-plays of presentations to clients, and the muddled antagonism between her and co-worker Josh is never really explained. The writing is strongest, however, when Annie observes the natural world, as when she sees a jackrabbit’s ears, their “transparent pink flesh big as the teardrop heads of badminton racquets.” In the valley, three young boys—Ky, JJ and Newt—develop their own fascination with the souplady, whom they call the Bonelady. They spy on her and insist that she makes her broth with human bones. Ultimately, their curiosity and mischievousness create another void in Annie’s life.
A highly organized, informative discussion of the immigration system in the United States.
In this politically charged environment, Afrasiabi manages to broach the volatile issue of immigration in a well-rounded, surprisingly effective framework that combines case studies, historical research, statistical analysis and personal anecdotes to detail the current issues and propose solutions. Invocations of Kafka, “The Twilight Zone” and “Alice in Wonderland” prove warranted as illustrations of the often surreal circumstances that confront immigrants facing deportation. Immigrants usually lack access to quality legal representation, while their situation can be made doubly difficult due to language barriers and significant cultural differences. Afrasiabi incorporates his work with colleagues and students at the Chapman University School of Law to deftly weave together the facts of several compelling cases and their underlying legal issues, with a genuine sense of suspense as readers wonder if justice will be truly be served. Occasionally, though, the narrative becomes overwrought—two federal laws passed in 1996 are “dark storm clouds depositing their sleet”—although, considering the life-changing effects of court decisions, it’s difficult to overstate the ramifications: extralegal rendition of individuals with pending cases and the de facto deportation of native-born children whose parents are deported. Afrasiabi also addresses the legacy of various anti-alien laws in California, as well as marriage equality for same-sex couples when one partner is a noncitizen. As the subtitle asserts, Afrasiabi employs his additional experience in the field of property law to contrast the stark differences between immigration judges and constitutional judges, like their qualifications, vetting processes and even the oaths they take. His arguments culminate in seven concrete reforms proposed in the conclusion. In order to make the immigration system more just and effective, Afrasiabi claims the solutions are closer than we may think; we can implement procedures and safeguards already in place within the constitutional courts.
A persuasive, valuable addition to the ongoing immigration reform debate.
Walkley pits CIA agents against a maniacal Saudi prince intent on starting World War III in this debut thriller.
Delta Force operative Lee McCloud, aka Mac, finds himself in Mexico, trying to rescue two teenage girls kidnapped by a drug cartel. But things go from bad to worse when the villains don’t play by the rules. Framed for two murders he didn’t commit, Mac has two options: go to prison or go to work for a CIA black-op group run by the devious Wisebaum, who hacks into terrorists’ bank accounts and confiscates millions of dollars. However, there’s more going on than meets the eye; Saudi Prince Khalid is in possession of nuclear canisters, with which he hopes to alter world history. Khalid also dabbles in trafficking young women, and harvesting and selling human organs. When Wisebaum’s black-op team targets Khalid’s father, the action becomes even more intense. With so many interweaving subplots—kidnapped girls, Israeli undercover agents, nuclear weapons and a secret underwater hideout—it could be easy to lose track of what’s going on. But the author’s deft handling of the material ensures that doesn’t occur; subplots are introduced at the appropriate junctures and, by story’s end, all are accounted for and neatly concluded. Mac is portrayed as a rough and ready action-hero, yet his vulnerabilities will evoke empathy in readers. He finds a love interest in Tally, a hacker whose personality is just quirky enough to complement his own. All Walkley’s primary characters are fleshed out and realistic, with the exception of Wisebaum—a malicious, double-dealing, back-stabber of the worst ilk; the reader is left wondering about Wisebaum’s motivations behind such blatant treachery.
Despite this, Walkley’s beefy prose and rousing action sequences deliver a thriller to satisfy any adrenaline addict.