Kind of Kin
Rilla Askew
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Kind of Kin
Rilla Askew
432 pages
January 2013
rated 4 of 5 possible stars

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The human face of the immigrant issue is the focus of Askew's novel. Set in Oklahoma as the state is about to pass a draconian immigration law that makes it illegal to harbor "aliens" and renders English the official language of the state, upcoming political star Monica Moorehouse waves the conservative banner for her party. A state congresswoman with eyes on higher office thanks to the machinations of her savvy consultant husband, Moorehouse has carefully timed her bill for maximum impact and public attention.

In the real world, when devoted Christian Bob Brown agrees to house a group of illegals on his farm for a few nights so they might avoid a Border Patrol sweep, a surprise visit by authorities lands Brown and his friend, Pastor Jesus Garcia, behind bars. The two men opt for silence as a means to make their feelings clear regarding the law as it stands. Unfortunately, their action only angers the local sheriff, who is anxious to be rid of the pair.

Askew frames her story as a farce, personalities caught in an absurd predicament as the difficulty of enforcing such a law becomes clear. Brown's grandson runs off after the arrest, initiating a search that brings even more complications to another family member fleeing for fear of deportation. Soon Brown's daughter, "Sweet" Georgia Brown Kirkendall, is caught in the middle of an unfolding family drama that causes a rift between husband and wife and mother and son, Sweet running frantically between one faction and another.

While Moorehouse grooms herself for political stardom, oblivious to the activities on Brown's farm and in the local community (including a camera-happy sheriff determined to have his fifteen minutes of fame), the drama around Brown's arrest and the fallout from enforcing the law has created a logistical nightmare for the people caught in the legalities of the arrest.

Though the crazy antics of a dysfunctional family are entertaining—and eerily prescient—they illustrate the foolishness of dictating reactive policy rather than carefully thought-out legislation. But the tide of immigration reform flows with the passions of true believers, an issue that divides both sides, at least ideologically. During the political, legal and familial brouhaha, however, Askew makes another point: Moorehouse and her very vocal constituents may find themselves on the wrong side of history by the time the courts have parsed the law's particulars: "History moves fast, don't it? Hard to predict which side of it a person will end up on." Time has shown, over and over, that even the most difficult of problems sort themselves out to the will of the majority. And so it happens for those caught in the maelstrom of new immigration law in Oklahoma.

Originally published on Curled Up With A Good Book at © Luan Gaines, 2013

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