Header Image

Nonfiction Review: The Devil's Highway by Luis Alberto Urrea

Title: The Devil's Highway:  A True Story

AuthorLuis Alberto Urrea

Year Published: 2014

Category: Adult nonfiction
Pages: 272
Rating: 4 out of 5

Location (my 2021 Google Reading map) USA (AZ), Mexico

Summary (from Amazon): In May 2001, a group of men attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadliest region of the continent, the "Devil's Highway." Three years later, Luis Alberto Urrea wrote about what happened to them. The result was a national bestseller, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a "book of the year" in multiple newspapers, and a work proclaimed as a modern American classic.

Review:  I read this book along with my long time girlfriends and I am so glad we did. Though this book was published in 2004, it resonates today as our border faces a wave of immigrants hoping to escape conditions in their native Mexico and Central America. The edition that I read has a 2014 update/reflection, which is a good addition.

I did have some issues with the book. It took me a while to get into as the writing is circular rather than linear, and I am the latter. At times, I felt the author was not only unsympathetic to the walkers (those that are coming into the USA), but in fact treated much of the material with a standoff-ish attitude that bordered on inappropriate. Some of the language and attitude he had seemed so harsh. Maybe that's the social justice in me talking. And yet, in his 2014 update, he seems to empathize and sympathize with those who try to come to the US as well as the work the border agents do. So, I'll say that over time he seems to have mellowed.

Despite these two issues, the book is super interesting as the reader learns how the system of coyotes works, how walkers plan their trip (or don't), get to the border, and what it's like once they cross and get disseminated across the US. Life must be pretty awful at home to go through everything they do and pay all that money to people who treat them as "cooked chicken" (pollo).

I think the book improves once it begins to really tell the story of these men's crossing in detail. It finds its rhythm and purpose, detailing the walk, the delirium, the deaths, and the response of those who helped the survivors.

Challenges for which this counts:
  • Alphabet (author)--U
  • Diversity--Latinx author and subjects

No comments