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A gripping novel to read alongside the work of contemporary Latinx writers.

Emilio, a "dreamer" and U.C. Berkeley student who has been deported to Guatemala, a country foreign to him, tries to return to the Bay Area home where he was raised.

Emilio’s mother, in Northern California, wants her son to stay put with a relative in rural Guatemala while an immigration attorney in the United States works on his case. But Emilio is young, bright, and afraid—that his life will pass him by waiting for the U.S. to get its immigration-policy act together and that he’ll never see his mother, two sisters, and girlfriend again. He embarks on the perilous journey back to California secretly, hoping he can make most of the trip before having to call his mother for help. Along the way, he befriends four Hondurans—Mathilde, Jonatan, Pedro, and William—and together they cross into Mexico, ride atop The Beast, the infamous freight train that travels north, and traverse the Sonoran Desert to cross the U.S.’s southern border. Marcom has crafted a harrowing, heartbreaking story. Emilio and his friends experience extreme violence and terror as well as deep wells of courage, resilience, and hope. The author explores the many ways people preserve their dignity in circumstances in which others with more power would reduce them to animals. While people do monstrous things, no one here is all monster. For every cartel henchman who abuses the migrants, there is a volunteer who offers them food, water, clothing, shelter, or words of comfort. Marcom’s plotting and pacing are well honed, and her prose is often revelatory, but a romance between Emilio and Mathilde feels jarring in its insistence on their inexhaustible nobility. Likewise, stories from other migrants riding the train, though well-told, feel like reportage conspicuously dropped into the story. The author's effort to “humanize” Emilio the Dreamer and the other Central American migrants raises questions about whom this novel is for and what it’s assuming about whose voices will be heard on migration.

A gripping novel to read alongside the work of contemporary Latinx writers.

Pub Date: Aug. 18, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-9821-2072-6

Page Count: 272

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: June 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2020

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The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and...

An amazingly intricate and ambitious first novel - ten years in the making - that puts an engrossing new spin on the traditional haunted-house tale.

Texts within texts, preceded by intriguing introductory material and followed by 150 pages of appendices and related "documents" and photographs, tell the story of a mysterious old house in a Virginia suburb inhabited by esteemed photographer-filmmaker Will Navidson, his companion Karen Green (an ex-fashion model), and their young children Daisy and Chad.  The record of their experiences therein is preserved in Will's film The Davidson Record - which is the subject of an unpublished manuscript left behind by a (possibly insane) old man, Frank Zampano - which falls into the possession of Johnny Truant, a drifter who has survived an abusive childhood and the perverse possessiveness of his mad mother (who is institutionalized).  As Johnny reads Zampano's manuscript, he adds his own (autobiographical) annotations to the scholarly ones that already adorn and clutter the text (a trick perhaps influenced by David Foster Wallace's Infinite Jest) - and begins experiencing panic attacks and episodes of disorientation that echo with ominous precision the content of Davidson's film (their house's interior proves, "impossibly," to be larger than its exterior; previously unnoticed doors and corridors extend inward inexplicably, and swallow up or traumatize all who dare to "explore" their recesses).  Danielewski skillfully manipulates the reader's expectations and fears, employing ingeniously skewed typography, and throwing out hints that the house's apparent malevolence may be related to the history of the Jamestown colony, or to Davidson's Pulitzer Prize-winning photograph of a dying Vietnamese child stalked by a waiting vulture.  Or, as "some critics [have suggested,] the house's mutations reflect the psychology of anyone who enters it."

The story's very ambiguity steadily feeds its mysteriousness and power, and Danielewski's mastery of postmodernist and cinema-derived rhetoric up the ante continuously, and stunningly.  One of the most impressive excursions into the supernatural in many a year.

Pub Date: March 6, 2000

ISBN: 0-375-70376-4

Page Count: 704

Publisher: Pantheon

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2000

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Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Steinbeck refuses to allow himself to be pigeonholed.

This is as completely different from Tortilla Flat and In Dubious Battle as they are from each other. Only in his complete understanding of the proletarian mentality does he sustain a connecting link though this is assuredly not a "proletarian novel." It is oddly absorbing this picture of the strange friendship between the strong man and the giant with the mind of a not-quite-bright child. Driven from job to job by the failure of the giant child to fit into the social pattern, they finally find in a ranch what they feel their chance to achieve a homely dream they have built. But once again, society defeats them. There's a simplicity, a directness, a poignancy in the story that gives it a singular power, difficult to define.  Steinbeck is a genius and an original.

Pub Date: Feb. 26, 1936

ISBN: 0140177396

Page Count: 83

Publisher: Covici, Friede

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1936

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