Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.
Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy - two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.
Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia - trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?
Lydia owns a bookstore in Acapulco. She mostly stocks books people will actually buy but she also has some of her favourites which are obscure. Javier stops in the bookstore one day and buys those books ... and so begins their friendship. He has made it obvious that he would like more but she makes sure he knows that's not going to happen. Sebastián, Lydia's husband, is a reporter and has been writing newspaper stories about the cartels. Even when Lydia realizes that Javier is the head of a cartel and confronts him about it, she still can't completely turn her back on him.
The last story Sebastián writes exposes Javier as the head of his cartel. In retaliation, Javier has his men go kill sixteen members of Lydia's family during a party. She and Luca, her eight-year-old son, escape and start making their way to safety in the United States with a just couple of knapsacks and a bit of money. It's not an easy journey and Lydia and Luca (and the people hook up with) see and experience more than they ever thought possible. Plus Lydia is always looking over her shoulder to keep ahead of Javier because he could have men anywhere.
This is the first book I've read by this author and I thought it was okay. It is written in third person perspective with a focus on many characters (it depends on where the action is) but it felt like first person perspective at times because the book tells what the characters are thinking and remember. It took me a bit to get used to this style of writing and I found I didn't read as quickly as I usually do. I don't know how much of the story is true-to-life but it is intense (I hope it's not as bad as the author described through Lydia and Luca's travels). As a head's up, there is swearing and violence.