Coyote Songs opens with a father-and-son fishing trip. Don Pedro and his son, Pedrito, have their lines in the water, and have entered that peculiar lull familiar to everyone who’s ever been fishing—that time when relaxation and anticipation are jockeying for attention. As author Gabino Iglesias writes:
When fishing, nothingness was full of possibility, quietness was a timeless inhalation before a scream, and inaction was just a fuse of indeterminate length before an explosion.
It doesn’t take long to get to the explosion, which arrives in the form of a devastating act of violence that is the novel’s true beginning. From there, Coyote Songs splinters into many stories. In this excellent Book Riot interview, Iglesias noted that he needed “a plethora of shoulders on which to place the weight of something as big as pain, migration, suffering, justice, bilingualism, multiculturalism, and syncretism.” So we follow Pedrito on his quest for revenge; a coyote who initially helps children cross the border, but is soon led to his true, sacred mission; a young man, fresh out of jail, who almost immediately finds himself back on the run; an artist looking for new, impactful ways to channel her vision; and a pregnant woman who lives in fear of the thing growing inside her.
Some of these stories come together while others follow separate paths, but they are all united by the author’s raw eloquence. There are moments of pure beauty here, punctuated with jarring scenes of uncomfortable violence. There are scenes that would be at home in any contemporary crime blockbuster, and there are moments that would highlight any midnight creature feature.
It’s entertainment, yes, but it’s far from mindless. Coyote Songs bristles with the anger, disappointment and frustration that so many feel in their day-to-day lives, and Iglesias does not hesitate to point fingers at the source of those emotions. This may put some people off, and that’s a shame. His is a voice among those that are shouting to be heard—a voice we cannot afford to ignore, even though the truths he tells are often ugly and uncomfortable to hear.