This book is an investigation into a disastrous border crossing into the deserts of the southern US where 14 men died, and 13 were severely harmed and also nearly died. The book looks at this specific event in close detail while also spending investigating the broader political and financial realities and polices that shaped it. At times the book reads like a true crime book, which also speaks to the kind of horror of true crime books, which are often wildly entertaining because the exceptionality of the crimes they tend to show like serial killers, where while describing the consequences of economic policies that lead to a series of much more common death feels grotesque and exploitative. The book is also an analysis of economic and political policies that incentivize border crossings in general, as well ones that drive people to attempt to cross the deserts in particular. There’s also a lot of focus on the cruelty at the heart of people “who care deeply” about this issue to the point of lynching people crossing the border, spike water, criminalize helping people dying, or even poison the wells, literally.
The result is that we have a deeply violent and horrifying set of circumstance not really designed to dissuade the act, but to punish it harshly.
I have read a handful of other books that cover this same material in detail as well, and Urrea’s refusal to automatically defer to border patrol or citizen vigilantes as the default position is a necessary kindness this book offers.