by Heath Daniels
Don’t Fence Me In is set in America, 2018. Yusuf Shaito is transferred as a deputy to the Attorney General’s Office, El Paso division. Once there, he must confront not only border issues and immigrant hostility but chaotic domestic terrorism linked to foreign influence. Together with his new colleague, Khan Nguyen, they begin to navigate some dangerous political waters …
Don’t Fence Me In is an ambitious work by an Author who is clearly passionate about the subject matter and rightly so. Consequently, the book is thoroughly researched and detailed. There is no main plot as such, although Yusuf, his secondment to El Paso and how that affects both his working and home life with wife, Nizrine and their young daughter, Sara, is the thread that runs consistently through the novel. There are a number of sub-plots and separate yet connected tangents. I thought the narrative involving Leroy and Woodrow, although deeply unpleasant, was one of the strongest along with burgeoning relationship between Khan and Otto. I also liked the emphasis placed on the characters’ different cultures and how, despite opposing views in religion and disparities in lifestyle choices and behaviours; there was a real understanding of how these elements define a person but the fact that they should not define their relationships.
However, there is a detached, reportage feel to the prose; its quite textbook in parts and some of the character action feels almost scripted. The dialogue does read a little awkwardly at times although between Leroy and Woodrow it was brilliant. I did feel a number of the characters had not fully developed their emotional responses to situations and, as such, it was hard to empathise. There needed to be a little more action and less reliance on superfluous, personal detailing. Don’t Fence Me In deals with some current, complex and highly charged issues and it would have been nice to have felt more immediacy. The inclusion of the pictures was a nice touch and lent the story focus and also grounded it in fact, which parts of the narrative are. I also found the character list helpful to refer to as there are a large number of individuals throughout.
Don’t Fence Me In is well worth a look if you have an interest in this particular politico-legal landscape; it’s a thought-provoking read written by an enthusiastic and knowledgeable Author.