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Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir
by Jean Guerrero
Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir attracted my attention because I live part of each year in Mexico and part in New Mexico, U.S.A. After five years of cross-border experiences, I have such mixed feelings because I love the U.S. with its fairly balanced mixture of freedom and order, but I also have enjoyed the kindness and diverse cultures of the Mexican people.
Crux, however, addresses cross-border experiences on a whole different level. The author Jean Guerrero is the daughter of a Puerto Rican mother and a Mexican father. Guerrero survives a dysfunctional childhood to become a journalist. This book is an effort to understand herself through an attempt to understand her father, a brilliant man who at various times is addicted to drugs, and alcohol, believes the C.I.A. is performing experiments on him, and is schizophrenic according to her mother, a medical doctor.
Guerrero longs for her father’s affection. She received it when she was very little, but most of her memories are of an unpredictable and often hateful man who occasionally dropped in and out of her life. Guerrero tries to win her mother’s affection and approval through scholastic achievement. In the process of becoming an adult, she is always introspective but she experiments in dangerous arenas—drugs at raves, trips to dangerous areas of Mexico, bad boys and sexual exploration, and the occult. The occult is tied in with her heritage as she had a great-great grandmother in Mexico who was a healer and diviner and other Mexican relatives who were involved in similar activities.
Crux contains a lot of family stories: Guerrero’s own memories, interviews with her father and his mother, and trips to Mexico to discover the truth of her roots. It also includes some of her philosophical thinking at various times in her life as well as information from her neurological studies in college. She minored in neurology as a part of her efforts to understand her father’s schizophrenia and her genetic predilection to become schizophrenic herself.
As a cross-border tale, Crux is sprinkled with Spanish, some of it translated, some not. I am not fluent in Spanish, but I appreciated the authenticity added to Crux by including Spanish. I do wonder, however, if understanding the book would be affected by a reader’s not being able to translate as they read. One could, of course, use an online Spanish dictionary to help, but that would definitely interrupt the flow.
Crux is a very personal memoir exploring the raw feelings of the author. The point of view changes in the latter part of the book as Guerrero addresses her father. There is also a maturity and cohesion in that part of the book not present in the first. Perhaps that is appropriate as she was initially relating experiences as remembered from a child’s point of view. Readers who enjoy history will receive historical background to provide context; it is interesting and succinct. All in all, Crux is a good read. There are very few heart-warming moments, but that was her life.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to One World (Random House) for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: There are some sexually explicit portions and offensive language in Crux. The treatment of women is particularly disturbing.
Publication: July 17, 2018—One World (Random House)
Life was not turning out as we had hoped. Creativity was a crime. Innocent creatures were mortal. Fathers left their daughters and broke their mother’s heart.
I had grown accustomed to the idea of my father as dead. If he was dead, he wasn’t willfully ignoring us. This belief had become a sinister source of comfort.
He persisted without pausing for protest, the same anger he had directed at me when he was driving me to my riding lessons as a teenager. I stared at the table, steeling myself. The numbness came naturally—a habit of my adolescence.
Don’t Believe It
by Charlie Donlea
There is so much to recommend in Don’t Believe It by Charlie Donlea. The initial setting is exotic: Sugar Beach in St. Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean. This mystery begins immediately with action and suspense. The main character, Sidney Ryan, is a smart, talented, ethical filmmaker. The documentary she is producing is presented almost in real time: the audience gets to learn the results of Sidney’s investigations and interviews in the same week they occur. Out of appeals, an old friend who has been incarcerated for murder for ten years in St. Lucia asks for Sidney’s help in drawing attention to her case as Sidney has done in three prior films that resulted in each instance in freeing the accused.
The story effectively jumps around to various locations and times and uses a variety of styles to convey the events. Designations for places and times are clearly and helpfully added to the first of each chapter. The inclusion of documentary episodes based on interviews is very effective as a storytelling tool.
Don’t Believe It is fast-paced, and the author knows just where to break the chapters so the reader wants more. The mystery is engaging and suspenseful, and the various threads all come together in the end. There were a lot of plot inversions and surprises. I would rate this mystery highly until the end when the crime puzzle is solved, but there is no closure to two major threads. What is the point? Is the author being artsy by leaving the reader dangling? Perhaps he is letting the reader mentally finish the book according to the way the reader wants it to end. Maybe this open-endedness is preparation for a series. Whatever the reason, I was a happy reader for most of the book, disconcerted by but accepting of a sudden change in direction, and then unsettled by the ending. Charlie Donlea proved he has good skills as a mystery writer, and I would like to read more of his work to get a comprehensive feel for his talents.
I would like to extend my thanks to netgalley.com and to Kensington Books for giving me the opportunity to read this book in exchange for an honest review.
Notes: Some swearing
Publication: May 29, 2018—Kensington Books
The detectives did exactly what they’re trained not to do. They picked a suspect first, and then looked for evidence that supported their theory. And the problem with investigating a crime in that manner is that any evidence they came across that didn’t support their theory was ignored or discarded.
But she had found over the years that inmates, deprived of just about every luxury in life, possessed a great deal of patience. They never expected anything to happen quickly, and took news of delays in much the same fashion as finding the bathroom stall occupied. They simply took a breath and waited.
If I could start my career over and take a path that more closely represented my interests, I’d do it in a second.