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Mexico by Josh Barkan

True to my word, I am making a conscious effort to read more short stories. I was very excited to hear about this series of short stories. I don’t know much about Mexico except what is on the news so I was really looking forward to reading diverse stories on the culture and the people who live in Mexico in the hopes that it would give me a new perspective.

The unforgettable characters in this story collection range from chef to architect to high school teacher to beauty queen (and everything in between). They are all trying to lead simple lives. Yet somehow crime has a way of intruding into their lives – and the way it shapes them is unimaginable. Time and time again, the walls between “ordinary life” and violence are shown to be more closely linked than one might like, and the consequences of these connections are life-changing.

While the characters and the stories are interesting, the constant recurring theme of violence and drug cartels caused all of the different stories to meld into one. Because of this effect, the short stories began to lose their charm. I agree that a collection should have some central theme but the stories themselves had to do with the same things and the same actions, and after a while, there really wasn’t anything new being presented. Some of the characters and their experiences left really strong impressions in me, which was definitely a positive thing! I wish this novel wasn’t so fixated on the negatives of Mexico; while there are loads of drug cartels, there is also beauty and charm and culture in this country and none of this was really expressed well in this story. So while the characters and the writing style were interesting, the overall collection left me disappointed because of its dismal portrayal of Mexico and its lack of uniqueness between the different short stories.

I received this novel as an advanced copy from Blogging for Books and NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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