border child book coverReviewed by Stacie Nielsen Bortel

Border Child (follow-up to The Iguana Tree) begins with Lilia and Hector back in Mexico, three years after their deportation. The young couple is dealing with the aftermath of the loss of Alejandra, their daughter, who was taken by a stranger at the border. Losing a child is every parent’s worst fear, and Lilia and Hector have the added agony of blaming themselves – and each other – for losing her. To make matters worse, there is the torture of not knowing if she is still alive. Although Lilia has since given birth to a healthy boy and is pregnant with their third child, she is consumed with grief and guilt over losing Alejandra, and their marriage is suffering the consequences.

Then Hector spots Emmaunel, the nephew of the (now deceased) coyote, Carlos, who took Lilia across the border. Hector and Lilia have searched for Emmanuel since their return because they believe he will know what happened to Alejandra, but until now, attempts at finding him have failed. Now Hector is determined once again to find Emmanuel and solve the mystery of his daughter’s disappearance, regardless of the cost.

Border Child, Michel Stone’s second novel, continues the story of Hector and Lilia from The Iguana Tree. The lost hope at the end of The Iguana Tree revives as Hector learns that Emmanuel is staying in Acapulca, a tourist town not far from the village of Puerto Isadore where they live.

His encounter with Emmanuel is not what Hector expected as he learns that Emmanuel never knew Carlos forced Lilia to give Alejandra to a stranger. He is, however, able to tell Hector previously unknown information: a woman and baby were in the truck with Carlos when the accident took his life. The baby survived.

Lilia and Hector immediately enlist the help of the village priest to track down what orphanage the little girl was brought to after the car accident. They have hope that the little girl is Alejandra, but even so, there is no guarantee she is still there.

Hector begins a difficult trek across the country to the orphanage. The journey is, of course, not easy and Hector is faced with sacrificing his morals in order to raise the money he needs to finance the trip. Caught between losing his chance at finding Alejandra and living with the knowledge he committed a crime, he chooses Alejandra, and the reader can’t help but agree with him.

Hector does learn what happened to Alejandra, but the discovery only further tests the extents to which he is willing to go to for his child. The choice he is faced with has no right or easy answer, and parents can only hope they will never be in a similar situation.

The ending is unsatisfactory, and it seems intentional by the author. There is no resolution, which mirrors the reality that families of tragedy face. I appreciate that the author chose to leave the reader dissatisfied instead of concocting a happy ending, but the final scene is rushed. After so much build-up to the discovery of what happened to Alejandra, it seems unrealistic that Hector and Lilia would accept the answer so quickly.

The writing may not be impressive but the story line is, so I recommend Border Child. The sole question of Alejandra’s fate is enough to keep the reader’s attention until the very end, and the moral dilemmas the characters face add depth and humanity to issues that are anything but simple.

Stacie has over ten years of combined experience as an author, editor, writing teacher, and teacher of writing instructors. She holds a Masters degree in Teaching with an emphasis in writing and a Bachelors degree in English. Learn more at her website.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Doubleday Publishing. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.