August 2, 2008

Midnight Cactus by Bella Pollen

Alice's husband, Robert, is an investor that's made a few too many mistakes, one being a ghost town in Arizona, only a few miles from the border with Mexico. Feeling stifled by her busy life in London, Alice decides to move to Temerosa for one year with her children, Jack and Emma, and turn the ghost town into a destination resort.

She soon becomes acquainted with the problems and sorrows of illegal immigration. Coming from another country, she has little previous knowledge of this issue, and therefore is able to see it more objectively than many Americans. On one hand there are the wealthy landowners who can see only the trespassing, on the other are the ranchers that welcome the immigrants and the labor force they represent. And then there are the cruel Coyotes, more interested in gathering fees than in the lives of their cargo.

This is a great book about the face of immigration. Another more famous one is Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle. But that one is more simplistic and has more to do with the contrasts between the casual wealth of Americans and the desperate poverty of the immigrants. This one is far more emotional than symbolic.

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