Review & Tour: The Iguana Tree

The Iguana Tree

The Iguana Tree
Michel Stone
(Hub City Press, Hardcover, 9781891885884, March 2012, 224pp.)

The Short of It:

The Iguana Tree is written with compassion, yet provides only a brief glimpse into the lives of undocumented workers.

The Rest of It:

Hector, Lilia and their newborn daughter live in Puerto Isadore and dream of a life in America. As the novel opens, Hector has paid someone to take him across the border. The plan, once there, is to find a job, save money and send for Lilia and the baby as soon as possible. Lilia, impatient to be with her husband, finds passage herself and what follows is their story.

This novel had promise. It opened beautifully and I found myself taken with Lilia and Hector and the small town they live in. As Hector makes his way across the border, I considered many times, how desperate a person had to be, to risk everything for the American dream. But what happens seems almost too good to be true and then right when you begin to question just how good things are, they are hit with tragedy which was all-together too convenient for me.

As I was reading, I got the sense that the author didn’t want to upset anyone, including herself. That she wanted these characters to come out on top, but then knew or perhaps felt that it couldn’t possibly turn out well and then at the end, (which I will not spoil for anyone) she goes back into the other direction again. Kind of.

If I had spent more time with these characters in their hometown, I would have understood their motivation more. If the author had focused on one aspect of their story, perhaps more time could have been spent on developing that one aspect instead of trying to touch on all the issues involved with undocumented workers. And last, but certainly not least…what is she trying to say? I don’t feel as if a statement was made. Does she support illegal immigration? Does she support undocumented workers? Is she saying that the process should be easier to enter the country legally? I’m not sure and I really searched for this in order to give this book a fair shake.

I wanted and expected a lot more because there were pieces that did work well and there were times where I did feel something for these characters, but in the end, no stance was made and that choice affected the entire story.

Would I read another book by this author? Yes, because what I liked, I liked quite a bit, but I wanted more. I do think this would make a good discussion book for a book club though. There is a lot to explore.

Michel Stone

To visit Michel’s website, click here.

To view Michel’s other TLC tour stops, click here.

TLC Book Tours

Source: Review copy provided by the publisher via TLC Book Tours.
Disclosure: This post contains Indiebound affiliate links.

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22 thoughts on “Review & Tour: The Iguana Tree”

  1. I haven’t read this one, but it seems like the writer was unsure what direction to take the book and waffled a bit in the prose…and if there was a message to be had, it probably should have been clearer.

  2. I think I liked this one a lot more than you did, and the message that I got from it wasn’t so much about the author taking a stance on immigration. To me, she seemed to be trying to assess the humanity of the people who are treated so horribly by the coyotes, and to put a face on these nameless immigrants that try to illegally cross the border. But that is only my interpretation and opinion.

    I really liked this review, because you highlighted what did and didn’t work for you in a great way, and I think you make really valid points.

    1. She definitely put a face to these nameless people. I agree 100% with what you said. That is why I continued to read, because I often felt as if I knew these people and I wanted to see how they’d fare at the end.

  3. I’ve got this one on my nightstand. I love Hub City Books and want to support them, so I will read it sooner versus later. I appreciate your viewpoint on this one, as I have heard just about all the positives from other reviews.

  4. I’m so glad I’m not the only one. Audra from Unabridged Chick felt much like I did, but no one else has. When that happens, I always worry that I missed something.

    But I just felt this one was missing something. I don’t need a “message” per se, but I do need it to feel *full* – though this isn’t the best way to describe it. Plus, the end of the book took on a speed that the rest of the book didn’t have, and it felt rushed.

    But as you said, the parts I like, I really liked. I’m always disappointed when this happens because I feel like it’s partially something a good editor could have fixed or, at least, recommended.

    1. I agree. It was missing the good stuff in between… the mayo and the peppery lettuce to give it some kick. She took everything only *so” far and then let it go or went in a different direction entirely. I would read a passage and think, “Yes! That is what I am talking about!” and then she would back off on it. Maybe she just needed a bit more encouragement to take a few more risks because the woman can write.

  5. This reminds me of The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle – a book I loved. He was able to put a face on both sides of the undocumented worker issue and show just how complex an issue it is… no simple solutions for sure. Sorry this one didn’t quite measure up.

    1. I thought of Tortilla Curtain as well while reading this one. That one seemed grittier and a bit more realistic to me, but yes…definitely the same flavor.

  6. I’ve read a few other reviews about this book and I wonder what I will think of this book. I was curious if the author implied or hinted at her opinion re: immigrants because it sounds like one spouse has a good experience and one doesn’t. I haven’t read very much at all about illegal immigrants or undocumented workers trying to settle in the US so I’m interested for that reason. I also want to support Hub City since I love what their doing and want to move next door! lol
    As always, Ti, a wonderful review that’s hooked me on the book!

    1. In one sense, the story was very realistic, and in another… it wasn’t. It had two personalities and although one was certainly the less desirable of the two, it seemed the most realistic.The one that I was most willing to believe.

    1. I felt the desperation too. Maybe that’s why I felt the need to know more about the characters. I just felt as if the author could have pushed the envelope a bit more.

  7. Hmmm..initially I wanted to read this one but now I’m not so sure. Loved your thoughts on it though!

  8. Hmm, I’m curious about the lack of direction in “the message”. I’ve been interested in reading this one. I don’t necessarily think books have to have a stance one way or another as long as it gets people talking… but maybe I’m just saying that and when I read it I’ll have a better idea what you mean. It’s very possible I would want a better defined direction as well. I plan on reading this eventually though!

    1. I don’t have to have a message either. I think I just looked for one because she kept waffling back and forth with where the story was going. I read an interview with her and she talked about her decisions. I agree with what she said, but the result (in my opinion) is not the result she was going for.

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