This strange but moving novel by Cecilia Domeyko examines lives of violence and comfort, punishment and reward, and, most of all, persistence.
The story begins with the chaotic memories of the child Elisito, who was pulled from a Mexican river and his mother’s arms by a man’s hand and thrust into an unfamiliar world. Readers may be disoriented too, which is clearly Domeyko’s intention. Rather than through straight narrative, meaning is delivered in the voices of multiple characters, a device allowing the author to plumb their souls.
Yoali, the kidnapped child’s distraught mother, remains convinced Elisito still lives despite contrary opinions. She writes a song for him (which becomes an unplanned hit) and embarks on an all-consuming search that becomes the novel’s central focus. Eventually, Frank, a cop she meets and comes to love, joins her desperate quest.
Meanwhile, on the narrative’s other side, Guayo, the kidnapper and cartel member, leaves the stolen child with Coyota, a woman who shares his world of smuggling, child trafficking, drug running and transporting illegal migrants across the border. At first resentful of her new burden, Coyota soon warms to the child, complicating her assigned mission.
While these two strains remain dominant, the background is filled with brutality: Killings abound; characters escape through a tunnel under the border; migrants die of thirst and exposure in the desert, and, most sinister of all, the cartel’s head (known only as “El Jefe”) reveals his own plans for the kidnapped child. All these elements converge in a violent conflagration, resolved, by, among other elements, a volcanic eruption and a mystical crocodile.
The story is fast-paced, vivid and crowded with surprises. Although too-rapid scene shifts and minor figures appearing and disappearing with little impact can be confusing, the emotional depths the author reaches in describing her major characters, their personalities, motives and, most of all, humanity make for an impressive novel.
Readers looking for an engaging thriller should enjoy this story.
Also available as an ebook.