Tag Archive | immigration

The Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea

Overview:ThImagee author of “Across the Wire” offers brilliant investigative reporting of what went wrong when, in May 2001, a group of 26 men attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona. Only 12 men came back out. “Superb . . . Nothing less than a saga on the scale of the Exodus and an ordeal as heartbreaking as the Passion . . . The book comes vividly alive with a richness of language and a mastery of narrative detail that only the most gifted of writers are able to achieve.–“Los Angeles Times Book Review.”

My thoughts: LSU Honors College selected this book for Summer Reading in 2012, hence, I read the book. I would love to rate this book as a three or four due to its subject content, but I simply cannot.

My biggest problem is the way the book is structure. The author admits upfront that he could only collect so much data, and so his knowledge is based on the sources he could find. Basically, he retells the story of the Welton  26/Yuma 14 in many different perspectives to the point where the story becomes confusing.

His opening chapter drives me insane. Each section has a different part of the story, usually with a different perspective. I understand that opening with a sporadic chapter adds to the chaos of the story, but it jolts my brain so much and just leaves me confused. I think it would’ve been better if the first chapter was more coherent.

The sporadic changing point-of-view continues through the entire book although the rest of the book isn’t as bad as the first chapter. However, it’s a lot to keep up with. Again, I understand why he does it since he probably doesn’t have all of the story from one person’s perspective, but switching perspectives so many times doesn’t work for me.

From a literary stand point, Urrea does what my teachers have told me not to do. He writes in incomplete sentences, switches point-of-view often, and goes between past tense and present tense. Sometimes, the story flows so well that these “forbidden techniques” work. Other times, I seriously scoff at them. If you’re looking for a well written literary piece, this is not the one for you. If you just want a story about Mexican immigration, this’ll probably be a good one.

Besides structure, I also had a problem with some of the information. More towards the beginning of the book, I wasn’t sure of most of the things I read. It seems like Urrea writes about specific situations that laymen wouldn’t know about unless they had previous knowledge of illegal immigration. I had never read anything about that subject matter until this book, so it was hard to keep up with it sometimes. Urrea does use some Spanish, and I could read most of it due to studying the language for about four years, but if there is no explanation for the Spanish, I don’t see the point in including it.

Urrea also tries to include metaphors, but they seem overdramatic and out of place, especially towards the end. I know he’s trying to include Mexican beliefs with the metaphors and make the Yuma 14 event seem horrific at the same time. However, sometimes the metaphors seem like a good thing and at others, they seem like a bad thing, so I just feel conflicted and I have no idea what to think about the ending.

This book isn’t a bad one, but it doesn’t work for me. If I had read about illegal immigration before this book, then I think it would have been enjoyable. Also, I think it would have been much better if he had written it from one person’s perspective and then explained everything that happened after the desert episode in another section of the book.
I borrowed this book from my library through the interlibrary loans system.