A straightforward account of an illegal that comments eloquently on the human cost of globalization.


Legendary newspaper columnist and novelist (I Don’t Want to Go to Jail, p. 347, etc.) Breslin’s revealing and tragic saga of an illegal Mexican worker who perished in a 1999 New York City construction accident.

Eduardo Gutiérrez was born in 1978 into a family of bricklayers in the tiny town of San Matias, three hours from Mexico City. Sun-beaten and dirt-poor, San Matias was a place where one would be lucky to earn $20 a week, so its young men and women dreamed of emigration north to the US, a magical land whose $4 and $5/hour jobs cleaning, cooking, or hauling promised a bountiful future. In 1998, Eduardo made the arduous pilgrimage, paying $1,500 to an immigrant smuggler, known as a coyote, to spirit him across the border. Breslin examines the border-crossing system in detail, describing how the coyotes stash their clients in Mexican border-town hotel rooms until the moment appears right; they then smuggle their charges onto airplanes, force them to wade across rivers with perilous currents, or guide them through deserts where daytime temperatures soar to 120. In New York City, Eduardo lived in a cramped apartment with several other illegals, rarely venturing outside except to go to work, for fear of encountering police or immigration officers. Breslin depicts the illegal’s life as a lonely one, separated from loved ones, barely comprehending American life, with few opportunities for socializing. The author is scathing in his portrait of the Hassidic real-estate developers in Williamsburg, Brooklyn who—rather than employ qualified construction workers at $23/hour—hire men like Eduardo for just $7/hour. Shoddy building standards, backlogged city inspection agencies, and politicians afraid to antagonize the politically powerful Hasids, set the stage for the November 1999 building collapse that took Eduardo’s life. He and his fellow Mexicans knew that the structure on which they worked each day was dangerously unstable; and, predictably, those guilty escaped with minimal punishment. Breslin’s at his best offering crisp reportage about the rough-and-tumble politics of New York City; his writing gets a bit clunky in the sections set in Mexico, which tend to the novelistic. But Eduardo’s story itself is compelling enough to pull the story along.

A straightforward account of an illegal that comments eloquently on the human cost of globalization.

Pub Date: March 1, 2001

ISBN: 0-609-60827-4

Page Count: 208

Publisher: Crown

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 15, 2001

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

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More life reflections from the bestselling author on themes of societal captivity and the catharsis of personal freedom.

In her third book, Doyle (Love Warrior, 2016, etc.) begins with a life-changing event. “Four years ago,” she writes, “married to the father of my three children, I fell in love with a woman.” That woman, Abby Wambach, would become her wife. Emblematically arranged into three sections—“Caged,” “Keys,” “Freedom”—the narrative offers, among other elements, vignettes about the soulful author’s girlhood, when she was bulimic and felt like a zoo animal, a “caged girl made for wide-open skies.” She followed the path that seemed right and appropriate based on her Catholic upbringing and adolescent conditioning. After a downward spiral into “drinking, drugging, and purging,” Doyle found sobriety and the authentic self she’d been suppressing. Still, there was trouble: Straining an already troubled marriage was her husband’s infidelity, which eventually led to life-altering choices and the discovery of a love she’d never experienced before. Throughout the book, Doyle remains open and candid, whether she’s admitting to rigging a high school homecoming court election or denouncing the doting perfectionism of “cream cheese parenting,” which is about “giving your children the best of everything.” The author’s fears and concerns are often mirrored by real-world issues: gender roles and bias, white privilege, racism, and religion-fueled homophobia and hypocrisy. Some stories merely skim the surface of larger issues, but Doyle revisits them in later sections and digs deeper, using friends and familial references to personify their impact on her life, both past and present. Shorter pieces, some only a page in length, manage to effectively translate an emotional gut punch, as when Doyle’s therapist called her blooming extramarital lesbian love a “dangerous distraction.” Ultimately, the narrative is an in-depth look at a courageous woman eager to share the wealth of her experiences by embracing vulnerability and reclaiming her inner strength and resiliency.

Doyle offers another lucid, inspiring chronicle of female empowerment and the rewards of self-awareness and renewal.

Pub Date: March 10, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9848-0125-8

Page Count: 352

Publisher: Dial Books

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2019

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2020

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