Book Review: Mexico by Josh Barkan

Mexico: Stories by Josh Barkan

This is a book of tangentially connected short stories, all taking place in and around Mexico City, Mexico. We hear from painters, chefs, and cancer patients, architects, and plastic surgeons. We do not really hear from any Mexicans. Nearly all the subjects of the stories are ex-pats from the United States. Only three stories involve individuals born in the country, and even these keep themselves separated from the land of their birth.

In addition, the stories all tend to revolve around one theme: Narcos and violence. A chef’s restaurant is visited by an infamous Narco and he is tasked with making him “the best thing he has ever eaten,” a cancer patient talks with the former wife of a midlevel drug kingpin, an architect gets caught in the crossfire of rival gangs, a painter is taken by professional kidnappers and held for ransom.

This book is a series of stories about outsiders looking in, and so sees only the violence and corruption. You will find nothing of Mexican culture or everyday life here, instead you will find poverty and deprivation. This is not a book about Mexico, it is about disconnectedness.

I must admit to being a bit disappointed by the single-mindedness of the subject matter. I had been looking forward to a variety of stories about the country, as there’s much, much more to Mexico than Narcos and death. Though the stories are well written, the repetition of theme gets old after a while.

An advence copy of this book was provided by the publisher via LibraryThing in exchange for an honest review. Mexico will be available for purchase on January 24th, 2017.

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