Lydia’s husband, Sebastián, slain on the patio, was a reporter who once fearlessly pursued stories about the cartel, which controlled Acapulco. Los Jardineros, as they call themselves, have a taste for baroque punishments and are helmed by a charismatic kingpin. Lydia, meanwhile, ran a bookshop. Her life was quiet, content and enlivened recently by a new friendship with a patron, an older man, devastatingly suave (or so we’re meant to believe), who shared her taste in books. Their bond was instant and deep.
This stranger turns out to be the kingpin. Of course he does; everything follows as predictably as possible. When Sebastián publishes an exposé, the kingpin rewards him by slaughtering his family.
Lydia makes frantic plans to escape. She decides to disguise herself and Luca as migrants and escape to America , until she realizes this is no disguise: “She and Luca are actual migrants. That is what they are. And that simple fact, among all the other severe new realities of her life, knocks the breath clean out of her lungs. All her life she’s pitied those poor people. She’s donated money. She’s wondered with the sort of detached fascination of the comfortable elite how dire the conditions of their lives must be wherever they come from, that this is the better option.”
Sleepless, grieving, paranoid, seeing the cartel’s henchmen everywhere, Lydia schemes their way to La Bestia, the treacherous freight trains migrants use to travel the length of Mexico, and finds a coyote to lead them north.
Where have we heard this story before about two people witnessing a gangland massacre and having to flee by disguising themselves on a train ride? And then one of them starts to get a little too much into his new identity?
Oh, yeah …