Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Crossing the wire by Will Hobbs

  Last week I reviewed Far from Gringo land by and I mentioned that as I checked the list of read-alikes  Crossing the wire by Will Hobbs was one that came up so I determined to rad it.  The immigration problem is one that perhaps will never fully be resolved due to various historical, political and economic factors that we won't discuss here. Crossing the wire is the story of a teen aged Mexican boy who learns his best friend Rico is going to make the trip to the USA to meet up with his brother in Tucson. Although Victor is sad to see his friend go the situation at his home keeps devolving and eventually he himself resolves to make the trip.

The story is not simply a recount of the trip across the border, in fact Victor makes it over is sent back to a border town and tries again before he is successful. I mentioned in my review of Far from Gringo Land that it showed the town and by extension the country mostly from the eyes of a middle class white kid. Hobb's novel on the other hand gives all the grimy details and shows just how terrifying the trip can be. Although immigrants from Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua are usually the ones who travel by train through Mexico, Victor Flores ends up hopping on the train since he cannot produce documents when travelling by bus. He sees first hand just how dangerous this mode of travel can be.  Hobbs does a good job of including characters who serve as mentors to Victor as he is very naive. As the novel wears on however he becomes more jaded.

It is good to see the many different perspectives of the border situation. Often, US Border Patrol agents are demonized but we must bear in mind that they are doing their job. Often some of them are second and third generation Mexican Americans themselves. Victor understandably does not have much interaction with Americans although the few he does meet are highly sympathetic characters. Through anecdotes from other characters  we learn more about the good treatment meted out to Mexicans by citizens at the border.

This novel would be a good read for ages 13 and up. It is written in a fast paced, descriptive style that is sure to keep the interest of a reluctant reader or a picky reader. Victor tells his story and although at times a first person narrator lacks credibility, somehow I was inclined to believe his story. Hobbs mentions in the afterword that he drew heavily on anecdotes provided by his own niece after she stayed with a Mexican family.  This book is well worth the read, I enjoyed it.

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