Like Nando, I wish I knew more words that could help me describe the epic novel my friend Gabino Iglesias has gifted to the world. For many years I have been wondering if a Spanglish masterpiece could ever be penned and this book is proof it can be accomplished. If Gabriel García Márquez was alive today, he would be remiss to not state that Mr. Iglesias’s work is worthy of being considered one of the best incarnations of “realismo mágico”. By far, one of the most beautifully haunting books I have read in a long time.
The prose itself is enthralling; I couldn’t pry myself from the story. Every character’s presentation is rich in description and introspection, as if these people were not only real but inspired by actual living beings. Born and reared in a place that could have passed as Macondo, alongside Gabino (name drop), made the religious references and imagery relatable; it was presented with the respect and reverence only one raised in a spiritual culture already can inpart, fully immersing you in the world of spirits and mystical circumstances. The story can easily be used as a parable of vengeance and redemption deserving of urban legend or folk tale status. I’d use this story to help my children understand the true value of poetic justice: Those who truly love and support you are always with you, acting as guardian angels that light your journey through darkness and despair, especially when avenging or honoring them.
The men and women who spoil this emotional roller coaster ride for their friends should be taken by la huesuda immediately!
Although it is not meant to serve as political commentary or my musings reflect the author’s point of view, the subjects of immigration and gang violence are hard to ignore as they are the backdrop of the main character’s journey and social circumstance. I would encourage high school professors in the inner cities to use this book as a tool to explore the “thug life” in a safe space where students could critique and analyze the content. In posh or privileged suburban schools, young adults reading this subject matter would have veritable material to discuss how cases like Nando only have their saints and beliefs to survive a world that presents them with zero opportunities to better themselves. Life is tough when the American Dream doesn’t apply to you and there are no other alternatives but to become a ghost, an enforcer or a drug mule. For the adults, it presents a medium to openly discuss the struggle that many immigrants face when leaving or confronting their Cartel infested towns or corrupt local governments.
The realization that people like Fernando exist and have to hustle daily to provide food and shelter for themselves and their families added a touch of desperation and anxiety to my experience. I wanted a happy ending even though the pages were full of agony, pain and violent gore. The story felt real, like something a friend of a friend could have gone through. This is one of those cases where art imitates reality and you are left wondering how many Fernandos have passed you by without you noticing them.
I couldn’t let go of that gut wrenching feeling that only loss can excite on a person, the agony of watching death follow you closely to the point your skin crawls and you can feel its cold embrace. Losing those who love you is an experience I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy.
Based on my readings of Gabino’s previous novels and some musings, I can confidently say this body of work was one of his best ones so far, if not his best. It is the kind of noir that turns a stuck up, fancy reader into one of their fan-boys or girls. Knowing him, he will continue to deliver texts that will feel like the slaps on your rear end you always wanted; naughty and taboo, yet delightfully wicked and totally welcomed. If you don’t feel a little bit dirty and confused albeit inspired and enlightened after reading his prose, you are not digno of his grandeza. 😉
Can’t wait for the movie rights to be auctioned…oh wait… 😀
Note: Zero Saints holds a very well deserved 4.5+ rating on Goodreads. If you think my opinion is biased, check what the real book critics have to say. This book is something you must read before you die. Get your copy before Mr Iglesias goes mainstream. 😛
Congrats big guy! Tita Underground está muy orgullosa de considerarse tu pana, brother. 🙂