One moment changed their lives forever.
A band plays, glasses clink, and four teens sneak into the Mexican desert, the hum of celebration receding behind them.
Crack. Crack. Crack.
Not fireworks―gunshots. The music stops. And Pato, Arbo, Marcos, and Gladys are powerless as the lives they once knew are taken from them.
Then they are seen by the gunmen. They run. Except they have nowhere to go. The narcos responsible for their families’ murders have put out a reward for the teens’ capture. Staying in Mexico is certain death, but attempting to cross the border through an unforgiving desert may be as deadly as the secrets they are trying to escape…
Honest and harrowing, The Border by Steve Schafer is a painful reality for many Mexicans. Before reading this novel, I was completely oblivious to the dealings of Mexican gangs such as La Frontera, so it’s pretty safe to admit that this book not only moved me emotionally but it was also pretty eye-opening. The author has touched on a subject that you tend not to see: which only highlight’s its relevance in today’s society.
“There’s nothing flashy about her, but she shines. I’ve noticed her before, though never quite like this.”
I think what impressed me most about the book is how believable the whole tale is. Days are dragged out in the book simply because the days turn into months for the characters. While the story is fiction, The Border cleverly shines a light on the fact that this is so many other people’s reality. There is no beating around the bush – this is the long, drawn out journey of those who risk their life to make a better one. And it’s utterly heart-breaking that in 2017, there are still people forced to owe their lives to coyotes who can help them cross. With a clever reference to Donald Trump’s promise of building a wall, all I could think was ‘thank God this hasn’t happened yet’. The journey seemed treacherous enough without there being a physical wall too.
How can trillions upon trillions of stars, planets, moons all appear exactly the same night after night, while my life is nothing like it was yesterday or even an hour ago.
Steve Schafer does not glamourize any of the characters in this story – he keeps them as these regular, everyday people who have to deal with a lot of bad things happening to them. Pato, Argo, Marcos and Gladys all have this air of authenticity around them, and the things that they encounter are genuine, believable events. It’s safe to say that the book is full of moments that sound disgusting and gross, but they are things that we cannot control as people. You feel for each of the characters and their way of coping with what is actually happening to them. And as the events that unfold around occur, you can’t but help sympathise for them. Even secondary characters such as Sr. Ortiz had such a way of tearing your heart apart.
“Narcos,” Sr. Ortiz says in a scornful tone. “They’re not people. They’re prests. No, they’re a disease. An incurable disease we all suffer from.”
Living in the United Kingdom, we do not share borders with anything serious such as this. There is no real danger when I step foot out of my house, and I definitely do not need to be wary about someone trying to kill me at a teenage birthday party. But for Pato, this is something he has to worry about. And to think that somewhere in Mexico, this could be happening right now is absolutely terrifying. Although challenging to read at times, and after crying for a little bit, I am glad that Steve Schafer took the time to write such a wonderful piece of fiction. The themes and story plot is one that must be spoken about – because we need to realise that people are actually dying.
I’m a liability in my world. I need a new one.
When this book hits shelves in September, buy it. Read it, talk about it, make it a trend on twitter. This is something that can really speak out to people. And I cannot wait to see the impact it can make. Steve Schafer, you have earned an easy five stars.
+ Steve Schafer +
Steve Schafer has a Masters in International Studies from the Lauder Institute at the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Wharton. He grew up in Houston and has since had the privilege to live, work, volunteer, and travel internationally. The bulk of this experience has been in Latin America. Steve lives near Philadelphia with his wife and two kids.