The Border

Posted by : atcampbell | On : March 16, 1999

The Border by Marina Fitch

Eight people showed up for this meeting, and one person e-mailed in comments. The topic of our discussion was Marina Fitch’s novel The Border. This is a present-day magic realistic fantasy novel involving a family that tries to flee Mexico and escape into California for political reasons. The family is separated at the border, and not all of them make it across. Years later, the daughter who remained in Mexico tries again to cross the border and reunite with her family. The book’s fantasy element is a “spirit friend” who guides the woman in her journey.

This book has several interesting elements. The spirit guide has an intriguing personality and nature. A couple of the characters in the book practice origami (the Japanese art of paper folding), and we liked how this was worked into a strong plot element. The book is divided into two sections with radically different storylines and storytelling styles, which we felt was a bold move by the author. Ms. Fitch also developed a clever notation to designate which portions of the dialogue are spoken in Spanish.

Several people liked this book enormously. They liked the contemporary setting, the spirit guide, and the political undertone. They grew to care about the characters deeply and found the story gripping. The exploration of various borders (political, geographic, psychological, etc.) was praised and considered gutsy.

Others considered the book only a partial success. Several felt that Part 1 and Part 2 were not equally interesting — although we were split on which part was more successful. Some felt that the political elements of Part 1 were stereotypical and uninteresting. Part 2 introduced lot of characters, and it was hard to care about them all. One person felt that the characters were too shallow and had such trendy problems (carpal tunnel syndrome, etc.) that he had a hard time caring about them. Some of us felt that the author had been building up to an ending and then “wimped out” with a more traditional ending. In general, those who liked the book least said that this was “not the type of thing I usually read.”

We felt that this book was interesting and it provided us a lot to talk about. That made for a successful meeting.

— A. T. Campbell, III