The Guardians (Novel 2007)

From American Book Award-winning author Ana Castillo comes a suspenseful, moving new novel about a sensuous, smart, and fiercely independent woman. Eking out a living as a teacher’s aide in a small New Mexican border town, Tía Regina is also raising her teenage nephew, Gabo, a hardworking boy who has entered the country illegally and aspires to the priesthood. When Gabo’s father, Rafa, disappears while crossing over from Mexico, Regina fears the worst.

After several days of waiting and with an ominous phone call from a woman who may be connected to a smuggling ring, Regina and Gabo resolve to find Rafa. Help arrives in the form of Miguel, an amorous, recently divorced history teacher; Miguel’s gregarious abuelo Milton; a couple of Gabo’s gangbanger classmates; and a priest of wayward faith. Between the ruthless “coyotes” who exploit Mexicans while smuggling them to America and the border officials who are out to arrest and deport the illegal immigrants, looming threat is a constant companion on the journey.

Ana Castillo brilliantly evokes the beautiful, stark desert landscape and creates vivid characters with strong voices and resilient hearts. “Like Sandra Cisneros’s acclaimed The House on Mango Street,” wrote Barbara Kingsolver when reviewing So Far from God, “Castillo’s writing is seasoned with Mexican aphorisms [and] rich symbolism. . . . Impossible to resist.” The Guardians serves as a remarkable testament to enduring faith, family bonds, cultural pride, and the human experience.

Praise for The Guardians:

“The Guardians is a rollicking read, with jokes and suspense and joy rides and hearts breaking, mending and breaking again. It has…a deeply rooted urgency, expressed with a compelling mix of bruised indignation and bemused tenderness….This smart, passionate novel deserves a wide audience.” — Los Angeles Times

“Timely and highly readable….Castillo’s most important accomplishment in The Guardians is to give a unique literary voice to questions about what makes up a ‘family,’ Mexican-American or otherwise, where an independent soul can find redemption, particularly in a hostile world, and how we can realistically find ‘faith,’ if we can find it at all, after we have suffered through our personal and political histories, and are still standing on this earth. This is a wonderful novel that does justice to life on the Mexican-American border.” — El Paso Times

“Only a gifted storyteller could portray one family’s tragic struggle to overcome the barriers between nationality and dignity in a way that makes her cause own own. Does Castillo do this? Claro que si.” — New York Daily News

“What drives the novel is its chorus of characters, all, in their own way, witnesses and guardian angels. In the end, Castillo’s unmistakable voice–earthy, impassioned, weaving a ‘hybrid vocabulary for a hybrid people’–is the book’s greatest revelation, even as the search for Rafa races to its dreaded conclusion.” — Time Out New York

“From its lyrical first lines…The Guardians invites you into the story of Regina, a 50ish virgin-widow living in a small town on the border between the U.S. and Mexico; her neighbors; her family; and the dangerous forces that surround them — the narco traffickers, the Border Patrol, the coyotes and the ‘unmerciful desert’ itself. The novel is earning praise for its timeliness in addressing issues of immigration, and for what novelist Cristina Garcia calls its ‘literary magic.’” — Orange County Register

“Castillo’s topical, heartbreaking novel blooms from the rugged desert soil along the U.S.-Mexican border, in a small New Mexican town perched on the fault line of the immigration controversy…. [Castillo] allows her characters to speak poignantly to the harsh truths of border life….What if we didn’t have passionate, lyrical writers to shine a beacon on injustice and cruelty or remind us of the dignity due all human beings? We would be poorer and more ignorant, indeed.” — Miami Herald“Forecast for Summer Reading”

“The complex and perilous life along the border between the United States and Mexico is the timely subject of this impassioned novel. Castillo uses a classic storytelling format — the search — to provide an engaging tale narrated by a poor yet fearless and wise widow trying to find her brother….this spare, sometimes profane novel provides a powerful glimpse of border lives hanging in the everyday balance.” — Seattle Post Intelligencer (one of their “best of the 2007 releases from June, July and August”)

“Castillo writes fiction and poetry of earthy sensuality, wry social commentary, and lyrical spiritualism that confront the cruel injustices accorded women and Mexicans in America, legal and otherwise….In this tightly coiled and powerful tale….At once shatteringly realistic and dramatically mystical, Castillo’s incandescent novel of suffering and love traces life’s movement toward the light even in the bleakest of places.” — Booklist (starred review)

“A nuanced, vibrant look at the American experience through Mexican-American eyes.” — Kirkus Reviews

“The end of the month brings Ana Castillo’s GUARDIANS (Random House), a fictional foray into the world of illegal immigration. The plot revolves around a Mexican man who goes missing during a crossing and his sister’s efforts to track the coyotes who may have had a hand in it.”–Houston Chronicle “A Fictional Feast”

“THE GUARDIANS” by Ana Castillo: The author of “Peel My Love Like an Onion” takes on the many issues surrounding illegal immigration in a powerful new novel in which a family’s faith is tested. “Wonderful … moving … intimate … epic,” Oscar Hijuelos told–San Antonio Express-News “New Summer Books”

“The acclaimed author of Peel My Love Like an Onion tracks the perilous lives of Mexicans who illegally cross the the U.S. for work…Castillo writes convincingly in the voices of the canny, struggling Regina….the desirous Miguel; the passionately religious Gabo; and El Abuelo Milton, Miguel’s elderly grandfather…[she] takes readers forcefully into the lives of the neglected and abused.” — Publishers Weekly

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Spanish translation available through the Franklin Institute, Universidad de Alcala de Henares, Spain.