Coyote Songs by Gabino Iglesias
Reviewed by Morgan K. Tanner
Much has been written about this book. Most of it goes on about how amazing it is. I find going into a book that has so much high praise is worrying. Will I not ‘get it’, will it somehow fall flat from what I was expecting?
I can’t say this was the bestest thing I’ve read in a long time, but damn did it draw me in and refuse to let my gringo ass go!
The plot involves multiple viewpoints of people around the US/Mexico border. Each story is unique but all detail the troubles and depressions involved in trying to make it into the land of the free; a land that doesn’t appear that free or great.
There’s Pedrito, a young kid who wants to avenge his father’s death. The Mother, who’s current situation is desperate but not as chilling as the things she’s already gone through. She hints at what has happened, and not actually knowing the details makes them all the more horrific.
The Coyote was my favourite character. His mission is to help kids get across the border, but needs to do some pretty brutal things to them in order for them to get the sympathy required to leave their hellish lives. He feels he’s doing this in the name of God and his motivations are presented in all their brutal glory.
Jamie, an ex-con will do anything to prevent a return to his former cell-home. But that’s easier than it sounds. The climax of his story wasn’t as ‘woah, no way!!’ as I expected, but seemed like a logical conclusion to his tale.
Alma is a performance artist who holds many people responsible for the injustices in this world. She became famous via an online viral video and now hopes to get more exposure for her message. She manages to, but when the message is relayed it totally threw me off-guard in the most horrific of ways.
La Bruja is the spirit of a mother who lost everything and now wanders the barren desert in the hope of finding some closure in her death. Her haunting presence is genuinely creepy and creates a real unnerving and terrifying vibe.
Each character gets their own chapter which made this book really hard to put down; there were many more pages to get through before I got to find out what happened next to a particular protagonist. But the proceeding chapters were so engrossing that my yearning for answers was somewhat distracted.
One thing that at first put me off was the mixture of English and Spanish in the narrative. I don’t speak Spanish so found myself skim-reading these particular portions. But even so, when characters spoke to each other in Spanish, I still kind of followed what was going on. I’d love to say that this is because I’m some sort of genius, but I’m big enough to admit that it was simply the skill of the writer.
The book was able to paint a grim picture of the harsh realities of the struggles to find a better life, but also tinge it with a hint of supernatural elements. Not enough to make this a full-on horror or ghost story, but these added a much welcomed darkness.
There’s no big reveal or tying together of loose ends, but when is there ever in this kind of story? The novel succeeds in evoking sadness, laughs, and shocking scenarios that I have, luckily, never had to experience.
And that’s the word right there; experience. This is a book that really needs to be experienced, rather than simply read.
About Morgan K. Tanner
Morgan K Tanner is a writer, drummer, and golfist currently residing in the English countryside. The idyllic surroundings make it an ideal place to write, drum, and hide the bodies. The busy sound of the typewriter is perfect to drown out the hum of the antiquated torture equipment.
When he’s not writing or inflicting pain and suffering on his numerous victims, he indulges himself in all things horror and metal.