Michel Stone’s debut novel, set against the backdrop of illegal immigration, is one family’s story of fateful decisions, risky border crossings, and a struggle for humanity. With a dream of a more prosperous life for his family, Héctor crosses into America on a harrowing journey in a welded-shut metal compartment under a delivery truck, making his way to job on a tree farm on Edisto Island, SC. He tells Lilia, his young wife, to stay behind with her newborn until he can pay for her travel. Impulsive and impatient, Lilia abandons her village, hands off her baby to a smuggler who should not have been trusted, and swims the dark Rio Grande. The tragedy unfolds across the southern United States. As Michel Stone weaves her tale of hope and human dignity, of sorrow and suffering, we see not only the devastating consequences of Lilia’s and Héctor’s decisions, but the consequences of decisions we have made as a society and as a nation. With its themes of loss, betrayal, and redemption, The Iguana Tree has the resonance of myth.
Short-story writer and essayist Stone's beautiful debut novel tracks the hopes and travails of a Mexican couple rent by figurative and physical borders. Lilia and H ctor have strong ties to Puerto Isadore Lilia's family has called it home for generations but the allure of a better life in America prompts H ctor to entrust himself to a coyote and endure a terrifying and trying journey that lands him in South Carolina. Meanwhile, Lilia remains at home to care for their infant daughter and cope with the passing of her grandmother on her own. As H ctor and Lilia fight their own battles thousands of miles apart, the divide grows too burdensome for Lilia whose friends maintain that H ctor has abandoned her, "ashamed of his heritage" who attempts her own crossing in hopes of joining her husband. However, as is the case for many would-be immigrants, the trip is disastrous, and the realized risks far outweigh the potential rewards. H ctor and Lilia's hopes and trepidations are poignant and honest, and Stone manages to deftly address a serious political and humanitarian issue without seeming heavy-handed. Well-written, expertly paced, and timely.