Héctor has set out from Puerto Isadore, a bucolic village near Oaxaca, Mexico, paying a coyote to smuggle him into America. Héctor has left his wife Lilia and baby daughter Alejandra, who live with Lilia’s beloved grandmother, Crucita. Lilia loves her village life, but Héctor is adamant that happiness and prosperity lie north, and he stakes his life on his quest, enduring a claustrophobic cross-border ride in a welded-shut compartment secreted under a delivery truck. After finding kinship with Miguel, another pollo, Héctor follows Miguel to Edisto Island, S.C., where Miguel’s cousin, Pablo, provides safe haven and help finding work. Héctor is fortunate in his new employers, Lucas and Elizabeth, owners of a tree farm, who reward his hard work and dedication. However, Héctor's plans to save money to bring Lilia and Alejandra to America collapse when Crucita dies, and lonely Lilia defies Héctor's demands she wait. With the help of a childhood friend, Emanuel, Lilia begins an illicit journey that soon descends into horror. After being repeatedly raped by her coyote, Lilia’s coerced into leaving Alejandra at the border to be smuggled in later. The latter third of the novel deals powerfully with Alejandra’s disappearance, Lilia’s helplessness and Héctor’s rage and despair, with Stone’s narrative flowing inescapably toward realistic resolution. Each character resonates authentically, and the contrasts between idyllic but circumscribed life in Mexico, the bloody border and the welcome success hard work can bring to an appreciative immigrant is empathetically rendered. Stone has done exceptional work in making real the struggles and despair, the resolute discipline and hope, driving the desire to find a better life while also illuminating unexpected connections of near-familial love among people of difference cultures who live and work together.
A haunting tale of hope and heartbreak.