An Oklahoma-centric novel about the “crime” of harboring illegal Mexican workers.
Georgia Ann "Sweet" Kirkendall is distressed—her father, Robert John Brown (emphasis on the second two names), has been arrested and charged for the felony crime of “transporting, harboring, concealing, and sheltering undocumented aliens in furtherance of their illegal presence in the state of Oklahoma,” as the legalese goes. Brown doesn’t deny the charge but rather embraces it, for he sees it as part of his Christian duty to help others. Sweet doesn’t quite see it the same way as her father, however, and she has a number of other things to worry about, including her son, Carl Albert, and most especially her nephew, Dustin, who’s only 10 but shows considerable empathy toward both his grandfather and the plight of the Mexican workers. In fact, he runs away, causing further worry and grief for his aunt. (His mother had died a few years before.) Brown’s situation is exacerbated since it becomes something of a local cause célèbre when Sheriff Arvin Holloway begins to rail against “criminals” like Brown—Holloway has no sympathy for the justification of “doing one’s Christian duty.” State Representative Monica Moorehouse also wants to make political hay, for she’s sponsoring a “get tough on illegal aliens” crime bill and fears her political ambitions might be hurt if sympathy builds for Brown.
Askew deftly weaves all this together in a narrative that foregrounds a number of important contemporary issues: religion, immigration, the economy and the effect of all of these on family life.