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Mecca
2022
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Library Journal Review
Descended from both the Indigenous people and the Spanish colonizers of California, Johnny Frias feels completely at home in its small town, canyons, and byways, and his story as unwound here by the sharp-minded, lush-voiced, multi-award-winning Straight creates a portrait of the state itself. Johnny works for the California Highway Patrol, ticketing speeders whose racist insults he brushes aside and trying to forget an incident from his rookie year. At the time, he killed a man who was assaulting a young woman, and two decades hence the consequences of his actions are exploding. With a 50,000-copy first printing.
Publishers Weekly Review
Straight's ambitious return to fiction (after the memoir In the Country of Women) takes an empathetic look at members of Southern California's Latinx community who face the dangers of fires, earthquakes, ICE raids, police brutality, and "la corona." There's Johnny Frias, a 40-year-old motorcycle cop who lives with the secret knowledge of the rapist he killed and buried in Bee Canyon 20 years earlier; Ximena, a young undocumented Mexican woman working as a maid at a desert spa, who comes across a newborn infant abandoned there; Merry Jordan, a neonatal nurse whose teenage son, Tenerife, lies brain dead in the hospital where she works, having been shot by a cop; Matelasse Rodrigue, a harried mother of two young children, whose husband, Reynaldo, has left them for a new life practicing capoeira; and Mrs. Bunny, a mysterious wealthy woman living in Los Angeles's Los Feliz neighborhood, whose fate is improbably intertwined with those of Johnny and Ximena. The author's love of the Inland Empire and its people shines through on every page, and there is a Didionesque quality to Straight's depiction of SoCal characters living in the shadow of prejudice and poverty, but in place of Didion's free-floating anomie there is fierce compassion. This evokes the best California fiction. (Mar.)
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