Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Sins of the Younger Sons ~ ~ Lone Star Book Blog Tours Promo & Review!

Genre: Literary Fiction / Romance / Spy / Thriller
Publisher: Texas Christian University Press 
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Publication Date: February 28, 2018
Number of Pages: 296 pages

Sins of the Younger Sons has received the Jesse H. Jones Award for Fiction from the Texas Institute of Letters! Luke Burgoa is an ex-Marine on a solitary covert mission to infiltrate the Basque separatist organization ETA in Spain and help bring down its military commander, Peru Madariaga. Luke hails from a Basque ancestry that came with the Spanish empire to Cuba, Argentina, Mexico, and, seventy-five years ago, to a Texas ranch. Neighbors consider the Burgoas Mexican immigrants and exiles of that nation’s revolution, but the matriarch of the family speaks the ancient language Euskera and honors traditions of the old country. Luke’s orders are to sell guns to the ETA and lure Peru into a trap. Instead he falls in love with Peru’s estranged wife, Ysolina, who lives in Paris and pursues a doctorate about an Inquisition-driven witchcraft frenzy in her native land. From the day they cross the border into the Basque Pyrenees, their love affair on the run conveys the beauty, sensuality, exoticism, and violence of an ancient homeland cut in two by Spain and France. Their trajectory puts Luke, Ysolina, and Peru on a collision course with each other and the famed American architect Frank Gehry, whose construction of a Guggenheim art museum seeks to transform the Basque city of Bilbao, a decrepit industrial backwater haunted by the Spanish Civil War—and a hotbed of ETA extremism. Ranging from the Amazon rain forest to a deadly prison in Madrid, Sins of the Younger Sons is a love story exposed to dire risk at every turn.

"Reid’s story is a fascinating blend of page-turning thriller and vivid tableau of Basque culture and the movement that battled the Spanish establishment for many decades. A reader can’t ask for more—a book that’s engaging, entertaining, educative, and unique.” 
—Thomas Zigal, author of Many Rivers to Cross and The White League

“What a fine book Jan Reid has written!  At once history—both cultural and political—and sensual love story, it reaches beyond genre to make for a magical and profound reading experience.  Don’t start reading it at night unless you want to stay up until dawn and then some.” —Beverly Lowry, author of Who Killed These Girls? and Harriet Tubman: Imagining a Life

"Page by page, Sins of the Younger Sons invites the reader to dwell for a while within its unique world, to suffer and celebrate with its unforgettable characters. It’s a trip that, if taken, is well worth the effort.” —Ed Conroy, San Antonio Express-News

"Sins of the Younger Sons vividly takes us into a world few of us have seen and into a bitter conflict most of us have never considered nor understood.” —Si Dunn, Dallas Morning News


HALL WAYS REVIEW: Sins of the Younger Sons is a story about journeys. There are the literal journeys of place, as readers travel with characters from the Pyrenees to south Texas to Paris, Madrid, Bilbao, and plenty of places in between. But there are also the journeys traveled by the main characters as they try to escape their mistakes, right wrongs, and change paths and reinvent themselves; these are journeys of the characters’ emotions, and they punch the reader in the gut.  I was mentally exhausted by the time I finished reading.

“Andre’s hired wranglers wore stained shirts, farm hats, and sideburns, looks of day wages and weary patience.”

It took some adjustment for me to get used to author Jan Reid’s writing style, but once I found the cadence, I slipped into the flow of it. Reid writes descriptively, so readers can envision the scenes, like when he speaks of “yellow hummocks of gorse” brightening the Basque landscape. I appreciate that Reid trusts his readers to keep up, but I’ll admit that sometimes I found the terminology and highly detailed, thick-with-facts historical elements somewhat of a barrier to the enjoyment of the book. Sins of the Younger Sons covers a lot of ground, but the author has done his research and enthusiastically weaves it into the story. Often, the details enrich, but just as often, I was confused and had to re-read passages to understand what was happening. I am embarrassed to say that I had to look up referenced cities because I wasn’t sure in which country scenes were set. The plus side is that I learned new things and was reminded of events I had forgotten. This is Reid’s love affair with the Basque culture and history.

I love language and linguistics and enjoyed the inclusion of so many Basque words and phrases, which Reid either defined or used contextually. There was never confusion when Basque, Spanish, or French were used in the text. Seeing the similarities in the languages (like correr in Basque to courir in French) was interesting, and I enjoyed the fierce loyalty the characters have to their heritages and languages. Reid’s inclusion of them is a reminder that no matter the separation, language always connects, too. It is also a reminder that language is living and must be used because when it dies, so does a huge piece of a culture.

Readers never get to know the main characters very well, but then, the characters are living lives veiled in secrecy and lies – and they struggle in their own ways to find their identities. Still, I wanted more clues to defining Luke, Ysolina, and Peru. Their relationship is somewhat of a love triangle, but what drives the love is nearly as vague as the characters themselves. And though there is clearly passion as a driving force (and a couple of awkward scenes), again, I wanted something more solid.

At its core, I suppose Sins of the Younger Sons is about love, but it’s not Hallmark card love; it’s love that has warts. It’s love that is misplaced or misunderstood or misdirected. (Or maybe just missed.) It is about love of people and places and country and culture and how love can get corrupted. Reid knows how to tell a story, and readers will immerse themselves in this world that merges fact and fiction so well.  An additional pass by a proofreader would be helpful to clear up errors and confusion created by typos, unclear pronouns, misplaced modifiers, and missing commas.

I recommend Sins of the Younger Sons to readers who enjoy stories that make history vivid, but which also have elements of suspense and surprise to keep interest piqued. This book has all the elements to keep readers engaged. Thank you to TCU Press and Lone Star Book Blog Tours for providing me a print copy in exchange for my honest opinion – the only kind I give. 

Jan Reid’s highly praised books include his novel Comanche Sundown, his biography of Texas governor Ann Richards, Let the People In, his memoir of Mexico, The Bullet Meant for Me, and The Improbable Rise of Redneck Rock. Making his home in Austin, Reid has been a leading contributor to Texas Monthly for over forty years. 

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