In Smith’s debut novel, a reformed hippie hits the road one final time in a quest to find his runaway son, and along the way, he finds himself.
Jerry knew he’d hit rock bottom when he drove his Cadillac into San Francisco Bay 10 years before. A lifetime of booze and drugs had finally taken its toll. Although he’s now clean and helping others who have gone down some of life’s darker paths, Jerry is haunted by the fact that his son, Ethan, ran away. Ethan and his mom aren’t the only people Jerry has lost, however; in a very real sense, he’s also lost himself. Plagued by a selective amnesia after his plunge into the bay, he doesn’t even remember his own name, but he’s committed to righting his life’s wrongs. His first step is to track down Ethan, against the advice of his friend, sobriety mentor and dharmic guide Mahatma (“You no ready,” he says). Along the way, Jerry befriends uptight Talia and her daughter, Lily, a runaway like Ethan. Lily is committed to living on the road with her boyfriend, Max, a wannabe messianic figure who dreams of escaping the strictures of society (and the law) in the Canadian Rockies, but she begrudgingly allows her mother to follow their latter-day hippie caravan, so long as Talia travels with Jerry. It’s an imperfect but beneficial arrangement: Talia can keep an eye on her daughter, while all three of them search for Ethan. Although the novel’s stakes are high, this is a quiet read, deeply focused on the inner journey of its protagonist. Smith does a commendable job drawing on California’s quixotic beauty to limn the subtle shifts in Jerry’s struggle with sobriety and grief (“Jerry sat on the grassy knoll, watching the crab fishers stringing nets out on the pier. A thin sheet of clouds swept past the bridge, blurring the crisp lines of the cables”). Likewise, as Jerry’s fragmented memory begins to coalesce around one horrifying realization, Smith’s controlled prose keeps the tension tight. It’s Talia that gets to sum up the novel’s thesis, though, when she confronts Jerry at his lowest point: “This trip,” she says, “if it’s about anything it’s about not running away.”
An engaging novel about one man’s road trip to the heart of darkness: himself.
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.