17 August 2007

6. The Guardians

The Guardians: A Novel by Ana Castillo

As a member of LibraryThing I was fortunate to be selected as an Early Reviewer for this book!

In this compelling exploration of illegal immigration and life on the Mexican-American border, Ann Castillo introduces the reader to four characters and their musings on their life and culture. The story, which develops in rather brief sections narrated alternately by each character, revolves around one family's search for a brother and father. The author brings the reader into this world of chaos and mistrust through the language and descriptions of everyday life on the border.

Regina, a legal immigrant through marriage to an American soldier who died before consummating the marriage, tried desperately to leave behind the migrant life of many illegal immigrants. Her brother Rafa could not as he needed the work to support his son and new wife. Regina has the strongest voice in the book and the sporadic use of Spanish words mid-sentence illustrate how she is straddling two cultures, both perhaps broken. Regina is devoted to her family and seems to have lost herself in the difficulties of her life. Through her search for her missing brother, she begins to find herself again.

Regina takes in her nephew Gabo and helps him to stay in school and out of the gangs that roam the border stealing from their own people and anyone else. It is when talking about Gabo that Regina utters my favorite line in the book: She says, "One day I am going to take him to Washington, DC. To see where the Devil makes his deals." These deals with the Devil continue to make poverty and desperation a constant in the lives of many legal and illegal immigrants. Unfortunately, the people who are trying to live a good and simple life in the border towns are beset with more than one devil. The scavengers, or coyotes, who traffic in human desperation have become another Devil to deal with and one which perhaps would exist with or without the Devil's deals in Washington.

Gabo lost his mother, who was murdered when trying to cross the border, when he was young and lives with the fear that he has also lost his father. He is consumed with love for the Lord and hopes to become a Catholic priest. He is also consumed with finding his father and often finds himself pulled between the two.

Regina seeks assistance in finding her brother, bringing in the other two main characters - Miguel and el abuelo Milton, who is Miguel's grandfather. These two men play a role in the final resolution of the story and serve to remind the reader of the importance of heros and political activism. While the resolution of the story is rather surprising, I think it shows the anguish of the characters and hopefulness in the face of extreme adversity.

I was in a unique position to like this book because I speak Spanish rather fluently, am Catholic, and share the author's political leanings about "our" immigration problem. I would recommend this book to anyone who was interested in this culture or societal problem - or maybe just for an interesting and thought provoking read.

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