González & Daughter Trucking Company
Libertad González is in the Mexicali Penal Institution for Women in northwestern Mexico. When the other women in the prison question the reasons, she puts them off. They share, even brag about, their stories and reasons. Libertad can't talk about her life and why she is in jail. She is, though, able to tell stories. With permission from the sympathetic Warden, Libertad starts a weekly Literary Club in the small prison library. She picks up a book and starts reading aloud to whoever would like to attend.
The other inmates are illiterate. They don't realize that's she's not reading the words in the book she is holding, but instead is telling a different story. Even when they suspect she may be telling her own story, no one questions her when the "book" goes on into another one, serial fashion. Before she has finished her story and her sentence, Libertad has gone through numerous titles in the library, like The Fountainhead, The Three Muskateers, and Fodor's Caribbean Ports of Call.
Life in the Mexicali Penal Institution for Women isn't too bad considering they are in jail. The prisoners have a "beach" of sand for sunbathing and relaxing that is owned by the rich women in the prison. Three women run a beauty parlor. Another woman will give tatoos. Nothing is free, yet almost anything can be bartered. Some of the less fortunate women will be maids for the wealthy one, earning money that way. Everything from hair to information is bartered. Nothing is without cost. Libertad works as a maid for a while, then earns wages as the secretary for the Warden. She is also clever and smart. The beach was her idea, so although the wealthy women paid for and had the sand carted in, she helped design it from her own vision. Everyone else had to pay to enter the beach. Libertad had a lifetime pass.
In the story she tells, a Mexican university professor accidently kills a military captain during a student uprising. He runs, knowing he cannot return to the university or his mother and sisters. He starts driving truck, eventually sneaking into the United States. He is paranoid of being caught, so constantly changes his name. He falls in love with a trucker. She shows him the tricks of the trade in the U.S. after they are married. But Joaquín/Holden/Pascual/Romeo/Severo (or whatever he was calling himself that day) González soon found himself alone on the road with an infant daughter. González has his own big rig and carves a niche for himself in the specialty market of buying large run-down equipment and driving it to the Mexican border where he sells it to someone who will be able to get more life out of the bulldozer, crane, or other piece of equipment that was requested. He and his daughter live in the truck with no address anywhere.
Libertad is a superb storyteller. She knows how to leave her audience hanging. The inmates demand more each time she stops for the week. Even the Warden eventually joins the reading sessions.
González & Daughter Trucking Company is a quick reading book with a lot in it. There are the two parallel stories of Libertad in prison and her life on the road growing up with her father. It has numerous voices telling the story as the "reading" is told from a first person perspective and the happenings in prison from a third person narrative. Occasionally we get Libertad's reflections from her diary. We even get the occasional trucker CB conversations about González and his daughter. This was my book club's book of the month and we had a lot of fun discussing and laughing over the incidents in the novel.
Yet I found the story to be average overall. I found myself putting it down and then putting off picking it back up. I didn't mind when I was interrupted. The book is entertaining and found myself smiling at some of the unexpected humor and getting sad at other times. I wouldn't mind finding and reading another novel by María Amparo Escandón. There is nothing specific within the novel to pick apart - I liked the characters, followed the story line, and wanted to know as much as anyone else why Libertad was in the Mexicali Penal Institution for Women. It never quite comes together for me, though.
Notice: Suggestive dialogue or situations
These reviews are personal opinions only and in no way reflect other readers' opinions of the books discussed.
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