Hector and Lilia are married and have a beautiful one-year-old daughter they adore. Unfortunately, life in Mexico is incredibly difficult for them, and in order to provide a better opportunity for his wife and daughter, Hector decides to illegally cross the border into the United States. When Hector arrives in South Carolina after a harrowing journey, he finds the job and opportunity he prayed for, and he lets Lilia know that soon he will save enough money to bring her and their daughter to the US. Lilia, however, has other plans, and the decisions she makes will change their lives and their family in shocking, irreparable ways.
What a gem of a novel The Iguana Tree is. From the moment I picked up this book, I fell in love with the beautiful writing, these desperate, headstrong, determined characters, and the picture that Stone painted of how difficult and complicated the issue of illegal immigration truly is. When I say from the moment I picked up the book, I mean that literally in the way that I fell in love with this family from the first page, as the book starts off with them both still in their home in Mexico, at a time when Hector and Lilia were as in love as possible and they had a beautiful but incredibly difficult life with their daughter and Lilia’s aunt. When Hector leaves, he carries so much hope with him throughout his journey it was almost as if I could reach into the pages and feel that hope with him – that is how well Stone captured his emotions and translated them to me as the reader. I loved Hector immediately and hoped so hard that things would work out and he would be reunited with his family in a short amount of time.
Some of Lilia’s actions and decisions were incredibly frustrating for me, but Stone also painted the picture of extreme desperation in Lilia. The choices she made were the choices that nobody would ever dream of making, and would only do the things she did out of the belief that there was truly no other viable option. One thing I loved about The Iguana Tree was how deeply it caused me to think about the tough subject of illegal immigration. Through Hector and Lilia’s story, Michel Stone shows the reader that there are no easy answers to this ongoing issue. The fact that people do go through what Hector and Lilia went through every single day, and many don’t live to tell the tale, is distressing and difficult for me to swallow. It breaks my heart that we still have not figured out as a country the answer to this debate, and as a result, human beings like Hector and Lilia pay the price for our inability to get this thing right. It is painfully sad and very sobering but The Iguana Tree brings the issue to light in a very real way.
Even though this is a novel about a difficult subject and as a result is very sad, I loved this book so much and ultimately Stone managed to convey a message of hope even through the end, when it seems that all might be lost. I embraced this novel with my whole heart and I highly recommend you read it too.