Mattioli’s novel is a sweet, road-trip tale about the fraught but ultimately tender relationship between siblings.
On the day Cosmo Greco loses his admittedly miserable office job, his free-spirited sister, Silvia, shows up with a plan to drive across the country to Portland, Oregon, where she has dreams of starting a new life. Though reluctant at first, Cosmo begins to warm to the idea when he realizes that his parents, his apartment and his employment status are weighing him down. Once on the road, Silvia and Cosmo bicker, bond and discover that their lives are only as limited as the stories they tell themselves about their family and circumstances. The characters the two siblings meet along the way—whether delightfully crazy or attractive or lost—serve as foils for a kind of personal growth particular to a road-trip scenario, and the landscape of the vast space between the East and West coasts acts as a catalyst for emotional and spiritual change. Author Mattioli (Olive Branches Don’t Grow on Trees, 2012) writes in an assured voice that carries the story through its potentially sentimental passages, and while some readers may begin to feel the drag of such a long journey, by the end, they may be surprised to find that they, too, have undergone an emotional odyssey. The scenes of Cosmo and his sister with their mother and father (who have long been divorced) are particularly poignant and well-drawn. For example, Cosmo’s father, a violent man in his youth, has deteriorated into a pathetic character who still produces conflicted feelings in his children, which Mattioli renders mostly through image: “The floor looked warped from moisture, as it was protruding in spots. The wood on the cabinets was chipped and worn. The door of the closet looked as if it could fall from its hinges at any second. One or more of the drawers didn’t close straight, but tilted, revealing an opening.” The dialogue is also, for the most part, believably rendered, which is vital for a story that mostly unfolds in a car.
A light yet satisfying story of a transformative road trip.
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.