Possibly the most heart wrenching story I’ve read this year, this really pulled at my heart strings and captivated my emotions.

This is the story of a woman who has had her baby wrongly taken from her; and her quest and determination to hold her daughter in her arms again.

This concept for a plot was enough to unlock the maternal instincts inside of me. What made me an emotional wreck was the setting for this plot. Íso is from Guatemala and her baby has been taken to Saint Falls, Minnesota. To get to her baby, Íso must cross the border and travel across America with no papers and little money.

Íso’s determination radiates through the pages and was so powerful that I was unable to put the book down all evening. Consisting of 250 pages, it’s easy to finish this in one sitting… but what’s more impressive is the impact these pages had on me. The story is so intense and completely consuming, making you feel like you’ve read a book closer to 500 pages.

As can be expected, her journey was not by any means plain sailing. For example, she meets young Gabriel who is trying to get to Houston to his mother, which requires Íso to make a detour. Bergen perfectly captured the build up and intensity of their friendship.

As a woman, the scariest aspect of this tale was how cruel men can be towards women. It’s difficult to comprehend the vulnerability that is attached to being female. Nevertheless, I was impressed how Bergen tackled the topic and how he balanced cruelty with kindness and strength.

What I haven’t mentioned yet is the beginnings of the story, which focus on Íso’s relationship with Eric (the father) and how heartbreakingly he was taken from her. I felt it was important to understand this aspect of the tale, so that I could understand Íso’s feelings and gauge her as a person.

I haven’t even mentioned all the themes this book touches on (exploitation, rich vs poor, immigration… to name a few) but what I can say is: I can’t fault Bergen’s writing style – it’s completely special in its own right – it’s absorbing, passionate and expressive.

Stranger will be published in hardback in September – not long now!! I was provided an advanced reading copy by Duckworth Overlook and this post reflects my thoughts on the novel.

Has anyone else read one of Bergen’s previous novels? I’d be keen to hear your thoughts.

Until next time, Chloé x


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