MIRADOR by James A.  Jennings

MIRADOR

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KIRKUS REVIEW

In this debut novel, a Texan with a personal vendetta finds himself immersed in a brewing Mexican uprising against the North American Free Trade Agreement.

Dallas computer engineer Nate Hunter is wary of his upcoming trip to the Mexican village of Mirador in early 1993. But his wife, Sarah, is excited about the prospect of helping to restore an old chapel, so Nate reluctantly goes along. They’re traveling with five additional volunteers as well as a pastor and a man named Mateo De La Cruz, who’s driving the group to Mirador. Unfortunately, aggressive soldiers at the Chiapas border seemingly validate Nate’s concerns. It isn’t long before the volunteers encounter a powerful and dangerous individual known as El Pitón, whose humiliating and ultimately violent assault on the group results in tragedy. Nate returns to the U.S. but later, believing he should have done more to stop El Pitón, heads back to Mirador. He reconnects with Mateo, who, Nate learns, belongs to the rebel group currently protesting the imminent NAFTA, which will effectively take away land from locals who have little else. Nate joins the rebels, as it’s a chance to seek retribution against El Pitón. But he soon sympathizes with the people who are fighting to reclaim their rights and country—a war “against being forgotten.” Despite the American protagonist at the center, Jennings’ story eventually turns its focus to the real-life 1994 uprising in Mexico. Nate is an unquestionably engaging character with his own struggles, such as trying to prove to himself and others that he’s no coward. But the lengthy, unhurried narrative aptly establishes characters directly invested in the NAFTA opposition, from Mateo to Father Javier “Tatic” Carrillo. As the tale progresses, it becomes clear that the rebels’ war is driving the plot, not merely Nate’s quest for revenge. In addition to the revolt, the author smartly incorporates other real-world components, including Nate’s job, which involves the then relatively unknown internet. Though certain plot turns as well as the ending are predictable, the resolution is wholly gratifying.

A substantial tale led by sharply drawn characters fighting for a worthy cause.

Page count: 711pp
Publisher: Manuscript
Program: Kirkus Indie
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