BOOK: El Avispero: A Novel
AUTHOR: Kenneth Taber
I’ll be honest, Kenneth Taber’s novel did not scream “interesting” to me when I read the back cover. It appeared to a little too earthy and technical for me. That being said, I started reading and after a hundred pages or so was drawn in. El Avispero does not immediately grab you with its town hall meeting opening, nor does it become immediately clear as to what exactly is going on – but after it picked up a little speed, I started to catch on and became moderately interested. That is, until about one hundred pages before its conclusion. Taber, in my opinion, would have done himself well to end his novel a bit faster than he does.
The storylines are plentiful (perhaps too plentiful) and the characters have dimension and likeability: two key factors in a book’s enjoyability. The basic plot line revolves around Mateo Aguillano – a third generation El Avispero nurseryman and his family. The Aguillanos were vegetable farmers on their land until county ordinances forced them to cease growing. Now they wish to build a condominium on their family’s land – but are being contested by the same local ordinance groups. The realization that this land – which belongs to his family – is not as free as he once believed sets further and further into his psyche as the pages turn.
A whole slew of characters – most of them female – are thrown in with different agendas and backgrounds. A love story is added to the mix because what great novel lacks a love story. Backstabbing and betrayal surely worm themselves in. All the while, the reader is intrigued but not glued to the page. Or, at least, that was my experience.
The writing is good. The dialogue is aplenty and masterly handled. The general plot line is interesting – especially in today’s eco-conscious world and Taber’s ability to work in immigration policy concerns is admirable. That said, I believe the novel would have worked better were it much shorter and maybe without a character or two.