Bang by Daniel Peña

Uli and Cuauhtémoc are brothers in Harlingen, Texas and one night flying a crop duster on a joyride, they crash just across the border in Mexico. One brother wakes up gagged and bound, and the other wakes up in hospital. Back in Texas, their mother (Araceli) wakes up to a knock on the door from police and quickly makes her way over to Mexico to find her sons. The narrative is told between each of their perspectives in overlapping succession, and follows their search to reunite. Each time the reader is introduced to a new perspective, we get enough of a backstory to situate the character without compromising any of the pace written into the plot itself.

I really appreciated how much Peña pushed each of his characters and really tested their limits in the face of complexity and danger and great uncertainty, and how place was so evocatively written to almost become a character in its own right, particularly in the case of San Miguel. While on a literal level the story examines the impact of international drug smuggling, it was the way the individual people we followed were written that really grabbed my attention. I found strengths in each of the perspectives we followed–the more practical and literal journey we followed with Araceli, the heart-in-mouth pace that swept Cuauhtémoc’s narrative arc forward, and Uli who’s slow-building (but in moments, deep-seated) connection with June broke my heart.

Many thanks to Brazos Bookstore for hosting a bookclub with the author, and putting it and many other works of local Houston literature on my radar!

You can buy a copy of Bang directly from Brazos Bookstore here, or from Bookshop Org here (affiliate link).

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