Review: The Iguana Tree by Michel Stone

  • Hardcover: 220 pages
  • Publisher: Hub City Press (March 1, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 189188588X

Hector, in an attempt to provide a better life for his wife, Lilia, and infant daughter, pays a coyote to transport him to the United States from Mexico.  The journey is long and perilous; dozens of men are stacked like sardines in the false-bottom of a toy truck. Upon arrival, he secures a job in South Carolina on a tree farm and begins to save money so that he might transport his family to the States to join him. He’s quite fortunate to have found this family, Lucas and Elizabeth. They are sympathetic to the issues he’s dealing with, and quickly a bond forms.

Meanwhile, back in Mexico, Lilia struggles without Hector.  When reasons keeping her from leaving Mexico disappear, Lilia takes matters into her own hands and secures her own transport to the States. In her mind, taking upon this decision, this journey, will prove to Hector how much she loves him.

The transport Lilia uses to freedom is quite different than Hector’s. Forced to repay her coyote in the most terrifying and traumatic of means, she’s witness to a host of violence among the smugglers. In addition, she’s forced to hand her daughter over to a stranger, with the promise that she will be returned to her within hours of her arrival in the States.

Upon arrival, Lilia’s daughter is  no where to be found, the woman who assured her safety is missing. When reunited with Hector, he is furious with her for exposing herself and their only child to danger. Hector doesn’t understand Lilia’s reasoning for going against his plan; in his eyes it is a sign of disrespect and lack of trust. The entire ordeal puts a great strain on their marriage; was it all worth it?

We’ve all witnessed the struggle with illegal immigration, but it’s not often that we get a glimpse of the other side. The story of Hector and Lilia is a truly emotional one, and one that is not unique. Their journey of hope and suffering pulls at your heartstrings; one can’t help but root for this couple in their struggle for ultimate happiness. While the ending is left open, I can’t help but believe they are able to attain this joy they risked so much to obtain.

Stone’s writing is elegant and the story well-crafted. While it is a short read at just over 200 pages, it is a story that will linger with you. I truly felt as though the characters were real and I’m desperately hoping that Stone writes more about them.

Bottom line: this is a book that will, without a doubt, join several other great books as a favorite of this year. Read it, recommend it. You won’t regret it. Highly recommended.