Survival within their borders

Do They Know I’m Running? is a heart-wrenching novel about family loyalty and the empty promises of the American dream for a Latino family.

Do They Know I’m Running? is a heart-wrenching novel about family loyalty and the empty promises of the American dream for a Latino family.

David Corbett introduces a cast of complex characters that deals with issues of love, loyalty and individual hardships. The main characters are Roque Montalvo, his brother Godofredo (or Godo), his cousin Pablo “Happy” Orantes and his aunt and uncle, Tia Lucha and Tio Faustino.

Roque is an 18-year-old musician, living with Godo, Lucha and Faustino in a singlewide trailer in a California trailer park. When he’s not taking care of Godo, who suffers from posttraumatic stress disorder as a result of fighting in Iraq, he’s off with his lover, Mariko, who’s much older than him.

Godo, with an injured leg and an even more injured psyche, drowns his sorrow in pain pills and endless packs of beer. He has night terrors and hallucinations from hearing dogs bark, which arise from a jolting memory of his time in the war.

The family’s already stressful situation rises when Faustino, the main provider of the household and an illegal immigrant from El Salvador, is picked up and taken out of the country by American immigration forces.

Faustino’s son Happy, a former soldier in Iraq who is known to be heavily involved with the gang culture in both the U.S. and El Salvador, sets out on his mission to restore his family honor and get Faustino back into the country.

We soon learn it’s not just his father he wants to bring back into the country, but also a Palestinian whom he owes his life from the war. Happy doesn’t want to do it himself and instead sends Roque, who has an American passport, down to El Salvador. There, the young musician finds himself in the midst of deadly gang relations and a young, troubled woman for whom he develops feelings.

Corbett takes us on a treacherous journey as Roque, Faustino, the Palestinian and the young woman, travel from El Salvador and through the borders of Guatemala, Mexico and then the U.S.

Although purely fictional, it’s easy to get fully enveloped into Corbett’s story. Though it may seem extreme in some aspects, the story seems painfully realistic. One can’t help but feel for the family as they fight for their survival.

Do They Know I’m Running? makes the reader think about the price that immigrants pay for just a chance at life in America, with all its promise. It also proposes that the reader think about the military services provided from those people and what it still means for them and their family when they get back to the states.

David Corbett will be at Powell’s tomorrow, but if you miss him then you can catch him on Thursday at Murder by the Book on 3210 SE Hawthorne Blvd. at 1 p.m.