Family secrets give way to family love in this likable portrait of Southerners helping their unexpected kin.
Clumsy Missi Jennings awakens on her 33rd birthday to find her dismal life as disappointing as ever. She’s saddled with a loathsome paralegal job, a sleazy boss, a subpar apartment and an ice queen mother who wants to take her out for an esteem-crushing lunch. Just when her catalog of misfortunes seems overwhelming, an abrupt accident changes everything. In the wake of the tragedy, Missi suddenly finds herself the owner of a pristine townhouse, a multimillionaire and the granddaughter of the grandfather she never thought she had. Instilled with confidence by her only friend, the homely misfit Maggie, Missi buys a one-way ticket to Mississippi in hopes of finding her grandfather. Once in the hospitable South, a host of colorful Southern women—from Dolly, the spit-talking gas station owner, to Melba, the matron of the Grits-n-Greens diner, who spoons love out as fast as she does banana pudding—show Missi the family she always dreamed of having. Family secrets are turned on their heads, and while the grandfather she came to see has no interest in Missi at first, the rest of her unexpected family quickly welcomes her into their flock. When tragedy strikes the family, Missi proves to have just as generous a heart as others have shown her. She reluctantly returns to her previous life in hopes of finding herself in volunteer work but decides that she and her fortune can do more in Mississippi than anyone would expect. Despite her radical new life and the ups and downs it comes with, Missi sails through it all with little internal conflict, alternately laughing or weeping on cue but never deepening as a character. Expected challenges that come with family, just discovered or long suffered, never surface for Missi, who accepts everything without pause. The other characters, while not original portraits of Southerners, are extremely likable. Aunt Melba Little and her brood shine, showering Missi with hugs, biscuits and affectionate nicknames. Sandra, an adult daughter with Down syndrome, glows as a full character defined by more than her disability. Deliciously described home cooking is mouthwatering.
Tender characters and exciting plot twists create an enjoyable romp through one girl’s newfound Southern roots.
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.