A high-profile lawyer with shadowy intentions climbs the political ranks in Hayes’ (Consequential Damages, 2013, etc.) immigration-themed thriller.
When undocumented Salvadoran immigrant Antonio Rios enters the United States from Mexico with his 15-year-old son, Sal, he wants more than a better life—he wants revenge on America, which “oppressed our people and looted our resources for 200 years.” Antonio works for “El Jefe,” a mysterious man who aims to expand his influence in America. Sal gets used to life in San Mateo, Texas, and he and his two best friends, Miguel Sanchez and Bobby Rivera, spend their time playing high school football and going on hikes. At a game in McAllen, Texas, Sal overhears his father discussing a meeting he’s attending that night, and Sal and Miguel decide to check it out. What Sal witnesses changes his life forever, and after his friend dies, Sal disappears without a trace. Twenty years later, a Yale-educated lawyer who’s passionate about immigration reform is heading into the political spotlight—but he may not be who he claims to be. When his dangerous intentions come to light, it’s up to Sal’s old pal Bobby to save the country. This is a story about childhood friends, young romance, and high school football that seamlessly evolves into a thrilling story of secrets, social climbing, bribery, and murder. Hayes’ decision to introduce the cast as children results in the development of rounded characters. In Bobby’s youth, for example, his parents urge him to keep a low profile, reminding him that their visas can be taken away at any moment; as a result, he’s shown to rarely speak up as an adult, which makes his actions later in the story even more significant. At certain points, however, the story seems to blame some immigrants for their negative experiences; for example, Bobby says, “Some people create their own wall by not assimilating and not learning the language.”
A fast-paced novel that carefully explores childhood friendship but could have handled its immigration theme with more nuance.