The Line Becomes A River
Mr B's review
Mr B’s Christmas Catalogue Review 2018
Francisco Cantú spent six years working as a border patrol agent on the Texas-Mexico border, risking life and soul as he struggled to understand the history and legacy of the border, with the ultimate hope of affecting policy change. Told in muscular, resonant prose, rich in history and anecdote and deeply felt experience, this is an important and unmissable memoir. ‘The Line Becomes a River’ is an urgent tale of one man’s humanity at risk, and a revelation of the harsh reality of this border.
THE NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
‘Stunningly good. Beautiful, smart, raw, sad, poetic and humane… It’s the best thing I’ve read for ages’, James Rebanks, author of THE SHEPHERD’S LIFE
How does a line in the sand become a barrier that people will risk everything to cross?
Francisco Cantu was a US Border Patrol agent from 2008 to 2012. He worked the desert along the Mexican border, at the remote crossroads of drug routes and smuggling corridors, tracking humans through blistering days and frigid nights across a vast terrain.
He detains the exhausted and the parched. He hauls in the dead. He tries not to think where the stories go from there.
He is descended from Mexican immigrants, so the border is in his blood. But the line he is sworn to defend is dissolving. Haunted by nightmares, he abandons the Patrol for civilian life. And when an immigrant friend is caught on the wrong side of the border, Cantu faces a final confrontation with a world he believed he had escaped.
The Line Becomes a River is timely and electrifying. It brings to life this landscape of sprawling borderlands and the countless people who risk their lives to cross it. Yet it takes us beyond one person’s experience to reveal truths about life on either side of an arbitrary line, wherever it is.
“One of the perks of being a writer is you get sent proofs of books. Most are not for me but occasionally you get sent a gem. The Line Becomes a River is such a book. It is stunningly good. Beautiful, smart, raw, sad, poetic and humane… It’s the best thing I’ve read for ages” — James Rebanks, author of THE SHEPHERD’S LIFE “Lyrical and moving… Cantu describes the borderlands and his work there with a raw-nerved tenderness that seems to have been won from both the landscape and the violence he was implicated in. Told in three increasingly soul-searching parts, The Line Becomes a River frequently feels momentous… Remarkable” — William Atkins * Guardian * “Tender, lyrical, and with a singular poise that is unsentimental and restrained, in prose as clear as desert air” — John Paul Rathbone * Financial Times * “[A] must-read memoir … Cantu’s skill as a writer proves an equal match for his material. A digestible account of US and Mexico relations, a nuanced portrait of Mexican cultural blessings and ills, The Line Becomes A River is a page-turning personal story that holds until the final page and wrenches long after.” — Olivia Cole * GQ * “A raw, compelling memoir… The Line Becomes a River offers an eloquent rebuke to all those who look to build walls rather than build bridges between people.” — Nick Rennison * Sunday Times * “Fascinating and heartbreaking.” — Lucy Scholes * The Independent * “Humanity is the preoccupation of The Line Becomes a River-recognizing it, acknowledging it, salvaging it.” — Carlos Lozada * Washington Post * “Cantu’s sparsely poetic non-fiction debut is timely … Radio 4’s Book of the Week is brilliantly evocative of the starkly beautiful reaches of the desert and of the human stories behind the statistics. Alongside the personal dimension, Cantu intelligently explores the history and causes of Mexican immigration to America, and the US response.” * Radio Times * “[Cantu’s] compelling, tragic account may help to break down the wall for others, too.” * The Economist * “Opening the pages of The Line Becomes A River is like entering a new world.” — Suzanne Lynch * Irish Times * “[A] honest (and, not incidentally, beautifully written) evocation of one human experience.” — Daniel Hahn * Spectator * “Spare, graceful, and full of the details that propel a good story… His life on the line has made him the kind of expert we need to hear from.” * Boston Globe * “Brilliantly evocative of the starkly beautiful reaches of the desert and of the human stories behind the statistics.” — Nick Curtis * Radio Times * “This beautiful and horrifying memoir should be required reading by anyone who feels that immigration is the nation’s number one issue right now.” * NY Journal of Books * “Especially timely and resonant.” * Entertainment Weekly * “Quietly heartbreaking…intimate and unforgettable.” * BookPage * “A book that whips across your face like a sandstorm, embedding bits of the desert into your skin that, like it or not, you’ll carry forward.” * San Francisco Chronicle * “Raw and timely confessional… A striking picture of the unsparing borderlands.” * Minneapolis Star Tribune * “His lyrical asides about the border, from the history of its creation to quotations of poets who’ve written about it, are passionately delivered and speak to his urge to give nameless migrants an identity” * LA Times * “This work may determine for future generations what building a wall does to magnify the heartache of plight and flight, of people moving between nation and nationality…without the agency to define it themselves.” * LitHub *