The Transplant by Alexandra Ulysses
Published: November 6th 2012 by United Arts Media, llc
Format/Source: Hardback copy from Librarything Early Reviewers
Genre: Realistic Fiction
The Transplant offers an insightful account of two young people living in United States illegally. Witty and tragic, it portrays their endless and fruitless pursuit of legalization. Agata, a young Polish au-pair who arrives in the United States in the late 1990’s, strives to maintain her legal status through hard work but, due to a fateful event, finds herself unable to do so. Faced with dangerous circumstances and few if any options, she flees from her host family only to find herself living and working illegally. Eventually she meets Mario. His single minded devotion to his ailing mother led him to risk his life and cross the border so that he could earn enough money to pay for the kidney transplant that would save her life. With the birth of their daughter Adriana and the need to ensure that their family stay intact, Agata and Mario become painfully aware of the need for legalization and attempt to gain legal status by any means.
A few weeks ago, there was a prompt for book bloggers to post about. The question was, “What was the last book you threw across the room?” At the time, I was having a hard time coming up with an answer. Typically, books will only disappoint and not anger me (if they don’t please, delight, or excite, obviously).
The Transplant actually angered me.
Agata is a Polish girl who yearns for a better life than the factory job she could have near her hometown. So she becomes an au pair to a German family who treat her so much better than most of the other families that received foreign nannies. When the family gets an opportunity to live and work in America for a year, Agata follows them, excited for the growing opportunities. But things get turned upside down and through a myriad of unfortunate events, she becomes an illegal alien in the U.S.
Mario is Mexican and wants to make money for his mother whose health is failing. He jumps the proverbial and not-so proverbial fence into U.S. and becomes a manual laborer to make enough money to support his family and for him to subsist.
The book felt like it was written by different people. I cannot think why this was done on purpose for some grander message about how those people forced to become illegal aliens change as people. It seems entirely too far stretched for that to be the reason. The first third of the book was exclusively Agata’s story. Her parts were written almost primarily in third person limited, allowing the reader to feel connected to her. However, it was there that I witnessed something I had never seen done before in books. If someone angered Agata, she would have homicidal thoughts that were strikethrough, showing that she didn’t actually go ahead with killing someone. For example, if I were to write like that now:
“What did you think of the book,” her friend asked. Glaring at the book, she
pulled out a lighter and sparked it, watching in morbid delight as the pages began to crinkle and brown, turning into ash placed the book down and sighed.
See how that could be confusing? What was most confusing about this was that it only happened in the first third of the book. If this was a stylistic decision, there should have been some consistency, or perhaps a clear delineation from one style to another.
Mario’s section read differently, with more focus on events than what he was feeling. It made me feel more detached from his story than I had felt towards Agata. The final part read like a summary, making me really begin to wonder the motives behind this story. There were times when I wondered if I was reading some thinly veiled propaganda piece for comprehensive immigration reform (the weirdly placed Department of Homeland Security seal and the Uncle Sam image on the back would be further support for this being a propaganda story). I do not like being told how I should feel about an issue. Reading this story did not make me suddenly change my mind on how I feel about illegal immigration.
And I won’t even get into the ending. It is in the last five pages that warranted this book on the list of books that I either actually threw or wanted to throw down. I felt like I wasted my time in getting invested in these characters. In fact, prior to the ending, I was going to give this book 2 stars “it was okay”. The ending downgraded it for me to 1 star “didn’t like it”. I was going to recommend the book to any friends I had who wanted to read something about this subject matter. But I’m not sure I could now without the caveat that the ending could make you feel like you wasted your time reading it. Which is really unfortunate to say about any book. I’m grateful for receiving this book for free from a LibraryThing Early Reviewers giveaway for my honest review. This book did receive some raving reviews from other members so definitely check them out.
My rating: 1/5