In the desolate wastelands between the sierra and the jungle, under an all-seeing, unforgiving sun, a single day unfolds as relentlessly as those that have gone before. Estela and Epitafio were trafficked, falling in love, before being ripped apart. Now they themselves are traffickers. Like the immigrants whose hopes they extinguish, they long to be free.
...about the weirdest variation of Romeo and Juliet yet to emerge anywhere ... [an] atmospheric and shocking novel ... In an odyssey of relentless human cruelty, Emiliano Monge, one of the many linguistically adroit writers currently at work in what is an exciting era for Mexican fiction, spares no one. That he can succeed in generating any sympathy for his frenetic lovers is entirely due to the ferocious eloquence of his prose, which has been magnificently well served by translator Frank Wynne’s Miltonic register ... Stylistically reminiscent of an earlier Mexican master Juan Rulfo, and with nods to both Chilean maverick Roberto Bolaño, and fellow Mexicans Alvaro Enrique and Yuri Herrera, Monge’s realist, deadly topical fiction is a weighty metaphor for our world gone mad. His characters, however depraved, often reveal traces of empathy, self- doubt, even suppressed horror. Monge balances the dour, apocalyptic brutality of Cormac McCarthy with lively, grim humour...all of which makes the stark truths driving this flamboyant narrative a little easier to swallow.
Sometimes a novel can rip open [the] darkness ... Mexican novelist Emiliano Monge—the ripped-darkness phrase is his—has done exactly that with his newly translated novel, Among the Lost. But illumination is not without its own complications: To read Among the Lost is to be trapped in, to borrow another Mongian phrase, a 'cage of light'—a Goyaesque picture of the Central American exodus, and the horrors some migrants pass through along the transit routes in Mexico ... The reader is basically guided through a humid hellscape of backstabbing, plotting and counter-plotting, and wanton disregard for human life. If that sounds sensationalist or overwrought, the fictional elements are grounded by the much scarier snippets of actual testimony that Monge gathered from Central Americans as he traveled the migrant trails while researching the novel. In brutal detail, their testimonies describe a pervasive sense of panic.
The novel’s tone is unsparing and grim, but Monge’s prose also includes many moments of beauty. The characters travel through a landscape that is harsh and unwelcoming but majestically rendered. Even as Estela and Epitafio, accompanied by assorted other traffickers and corrupt officials, wreak havoc and destroy lives, their inner worlds are sharply, convincingly drawn. Their personal dramas are entertaining, and their rage-filled bumbling provides occasional much-needed dark humor, at the same time as their enterprise evokes horror and disgust ... Among the Lost is a timely novel of immigration that is as beautiful as it is horrific. It is a multilayered, emotionally complex artistic triumph.