The Wall, by Joseph Hayes

Seven stars

In his recent publication, Joseph Hayes touches on some current hot-button topics, sure to stir the pot. The wall erected along the southern border of the United States is supposed to quell illegal immigration, but has served more as a means of challenging those who seek a better life in America. Sal Rios and his father learned that as they trekked from Mexico over the border one night, as the novel opens. With dangers all around them on both sides, the Rios family snuck through and set-up in a Texas town, hoping for the best. While Sal is trying to acclimate, he meets Bobby Rivera and Miguel Sanchez, two other boys his age. Bobby is the brains of the operation, able to score high marks in school and the son to two visa-carrying parents in the medical field. Miguel has been forced to scrounge just to make ends meet, seen more as a independent teen, with a single mom trying to juggle all the responsibilities. These three boys soon prove to be inseparable, making a name for themselves around school and getting into trouble. Sal’s father may not be the naive illegal immigrant that he wants people to believe, as the boys find out one night when they notice him ‘conducting business’. However, it is an accident that sees Miguel die and Sal take over his life, all planned through some of the businessmen that control the immigrant population in this rural Texas community. Move ahead twenty years, where the new “Michael ‘Miguel’ Sanchez” has become a prominent lawyer fighting for the rights of immigrants. After a headline-grabbing decision at the US Supreme Court, Sanchez is riding the wave of popularity. With it, comes the politicos, wondering if he might put his name forward for office. While bandying around the idea of a Senate run, someone insists that his independent candidacy for President of the United States might be just what the country needs to focus on immigration issues, particularly those of the illegal variety around the Mexican border. While Sanchez is weighing his options, Bobby Rivera has been living a simple life, though is impressed to see that someone is making noise about immigration issues. With a good job and ties to the community, Rivera watches as this new face on the political scene seems to be rising in popularity at just the right time. However, Bobby knows the dark secret that could bring the Sanchez Campaign down. With a plan to see Sanchez align himself with one of the mainstream campaigns as a VP candidate, his political future seems firmly controlled by others, forcing him to remain quiet. As Bobby tries to help his friend dodge those mean him harm, he becomes entangled in a situation that could have dire consequences ahead of this important presidential election. A well-crafted piece whose political intrigue held strong for most of the novel, but waned in the last handful of chapters.

I noticed this book on the Kindle Unlimited website and knew that I would have to give it my best effort. While I have never read anything by Joseph Hayes, there was a certain poignancy to this novel that I could not resist. In the early part of the story, Hayes depicts some of the stories that many Americans have likely heard about the porous nature of the US-Mexico border, though there is a great deal of danger, not a ‘welcome to America, come on in’ as certain blowhards would have us believe. While illegal immigration does occur, using steel and adding more bullets to guns will do little to solve the larger issue of illegal immigration, save for a silly stop-gap measure that ignores the root causes and only costs the taxpayer billions after being lied to throughout a political campaign. Hayes focuses his attention on the issue and uses some key characters to depict this story, through both a struggle and success. Bobby Rivera is the American-born first generation character, whose parents arrived legally and who sought a better life for their son. He has the brains to succeed and, given the chance, makes the most of his opportunities. A great contrast occurs between his youth and adulthood, where Rivera is standing on the sidelines and watching change occur. His backstory and character development are well documented throughout Hayes’ narrative, though he seems to be the unexpected spectator, with brains and persuasive capabilities one might expect of a political figure. Miguel Sanchez/Sal Rios is the wonderful rags to riches character who was forgotten in his youth and cut his teeth on getting into trouble without being caught. He appears to have risen above and earned his law degree, only to effect change in a country that needs it more than ever. Hughes shows his maturity through the twenty year flash forward in the early part of the book, allowing the reader to see a man ready to take on the political elites to advocate for much-needed policy change, though it will not be easy. However, the secret that hangs over him could bring him down at any moment. The story was developed well, keeping the reader enthralled throughout. With a little talk of immigration policy and the thrill of an election campaign, the reader should expect something exciting. However, the political campaign becomes secondary as Hayes flirts with having the narrative reveal the deep secret Miguel Sanchez has been keeping. I had hoped for something highly political with a cut-throat campaign, but perhaps Hayes will do so in another of his novels. Strong characters and a decent plot keep Joseph Hayes showing that he is an author to watch, even if the story took a turn I did not expect to become primary.

Kudos, Mr. Hayes, for a great story that has strong themes that are quite relevant. I look forward to reading more of your work in the coming months.

A Book for All Seasons, a different sort of Book Challenge: