Monday, May 8, 2017

Review of MEXICO: STORIES ~ Perfect

Mexico: Stories
by Josh Barkan
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published January 24th, 2017 by Hogarth

The unforgettable characters in Josh Barkan’s astonishing and beautiful story collection—chef, architect, nurse, high school teacher, painter, beauty queen, classical bass player, plastic surgeon, businessman, mime—are simply trying to lead their lives and steer clear of violence. Yet, inevitably, crime has a way of intruding on their lives all the same. A surgeon finds himself forced into performing a risky procedure on a narco killer. A teacher struggles to protect lovestruck students whose forbidden romance has put them in mortal peril. A painter’s freewheeling ways land him in the back of a kidnapper’s car. Again and again, the walls between “ordinary life” and cartel violence are shown to be paper thin, and when they collapse the consequences are life-changing.

These are stories about transformation and danger, passion and heartbreak, terror and triumph. They are funny, deeply moving, and stunningly well-crafted, and they tap into the most universal and enduring human experiences: love even in the face of danger and loss, the struggle to grow and keep faith amid hardship and conflict, and the pursuit of authenticity and courage over apathy and oppression. With unflinching honesty and exquisite tenderness, Josh Barkan masterfully introduces us to characters that are full of life, marking the arrival of a new and essential voice in American fiction.  


What a mind blowing book MEXICO is! Other reviews I read complained about not knowing about the amount of violence this book entails, which boggles my mind due to the fact it is mentioned in the blurb. Nonetheless, the macabre content is just an important aspect of these short stories as humor, courage, and love are also crucial components to shaping the atmosphere of these stories. Additionally, the cartel in one way or another represents a sizable portion of the plots within this book, therefore, causing the gruesomeness but the author contains such skill in his ability to write regarding how the characters in the story grew as individuals overcoming any ghastly incident that occurred to them becoming stronger people. Consequently, not all the stories have a happy ending, but each contains an important premise. Finally, MEXICO consisted of tremendously great writing its as if the book had hands holding on to me as my mind ingested the profoundness of intriguing writing. Oh, wait! Ordinarily for me in a book of short stories, there is one story that slightly rises above the rest, but not in MEXICO each one impressed me uniformly.

JOSH BARKAN has won the Lightship International Short Story Prize and been a finalist for the Grace Paley Prize for Short Fiction, the Paterson Fiction Prize, and the Juniper Prize for Fiction. He is the recipient of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and his writing has appeared in Esquire. He earned his MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and has taught writing at Harvard, Boston University, and New York University. With his wife, a painter from Mexico, he divides his time between Mexico City and Roanoke, Virginia.

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