George Rabasa: Floating Kingdom

George Rabasa
Floating Kingdom
Coffee House Press

LUCIO SEGUILA DOES not pass judgment on the scores of immigrants who seek his services as a coyote--the border-crossing guide for illegal aliens--though he believes most of their lives would be better off if they just stayed home. He's determined to grow old in peace, which necessitates preserving the tranquillity of what he calls Republica Libre de Seguilandia--the Free Republic of Seguilaland--a tiny island in the middle of the Rio Grande, though his charges seem hell-bent on screwing it up. But the great river is impartial and the currents bring life and death with equal unpredictability.

Simon Tucker, an American teenager on a mission to score cheap pot, provides an excellent opportunity for an enterprising Mexican to make fast money. Simon's dealings with Lucio generate numerous instances of thought-provoking irony: While the North and South are engaged in an ongoing battle to exploit each other's resources, both sides may benefit from unrecognized episodes of decency. And as a work of fiction, Floating Kingdom is a place where the concepts and ideas of two cultures successfully converge. Rabasa skillfully blends the two languages--a handy metaphor for the river that serves as the story's setting. Only occasionally does the author's espanglish hinder the narrative.

Rabasa's vision is based on the possibility of establishing relationships that escape the pervasive existence of misunderstanding and distrust. In order to attain a measure of peaceful coexistence, the author suggests our societies must forswear the myth that the grass and the cash are always greener on the other side.

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