Debut author Victoria’s topical thriller follows the political and personal reverberations of a tough and controversial immigration law in California.
Newly elected California Gov. Michael DiGrasso doggedly pursues the passage of a law that would make his state inhospitable to illegal immigrants and stanch their flow over porous borders. He encounters opposition from multiple quarters: Senate Minority Leader Elizabeth Stern proves a devious and underhanded adversary, while a radical group of subterranean political activists, the Reconquistas, look to undermine DiGrasso through both targeted and mass violence. Even the Supreme Court takes a swing, declaring the new law unconstitutional. Undaunted, DiGrasso presses on, defying the Supreme Court and igniting a tempestuous national debate on the proper role of the federal courts. Meanwhile, the story tracks the embattled lives of two Mexican families, struggling to make a home in a country that promises opportunity but denies them the stability of citizenship. Victoria does a deft job drawing out the human context of a legislative tug of war, detailing the many ways public discourse misses the complex consequences of major policy. And while the narrator clearly favors a conservative interpretation of the issue, he avoids any ideological axe-grinding or simplistic caricatures. The story unfolds at a brisk pace but sometimes flirts with haste, glossing over major developments that, if depicted in detail, could have deepened the drama. Also, while the prose is never clunky or turgid, it’s never transcendent either. At times, the content of the debate regarding judicial review borders on didactic but, for readers looking for a constitutional primer on federalism wrapped in fictional drama, those sections of the novel might be more enlightening than pedantic.
For readers on the hunt for a fictional account of a contemporary political dispute, this is a competent if not inspiring option.