3.6 10
by Ana Castillo

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From American Book Award-winning author Ana Castillo comes a suspenseful, moving novel about a sensuous, smart, and fiercely independent woman. Eking out a living as a teacher’s aide in a small New Mexican border town, Tía Regina is also raising her teenage nephew, Gabo, a hardworking boy who has entered the country illegally and aspires to the priesthood.


From American Book Award-winning author Ana Castillo comes a suspenseful, moving novel about a sensuous, smart, and fiercely independent woman. Eking out a living as a teacher’s aide in a small New Mexican border town, Tía Regina is also raising her teenage nephew, Gabo, a hardworking boy who has entered the country illegally and aspires to the priesthood. When Gabo’s father, Rafa, disappears while crossing over from Mexico, Regina fears the worst.

After several days of waiting and with an ominous phone call from a woman who may be connected to a smuggling ring, Regina and Gabo resolve to find Rafa. Help arrives in the form of Miguel, an amorous, recently divorced history teacher; Miguel’s gregarious abuelo Milton; a couple of Gabo’s gangbanger classmates; and a priest of wayward faith. Though their journey is rife with challenges and danger, it will serve as a remarkable testament to family bonds, cultural pride, and the human experience

Praise for The Guardians


“An always skilled storyteller, [Castillo] grounds her writing in . . . humor, love, suspense and heartache–that draw the reader in.”
Chicago Sunday Sun-Times

“A rollicking read, with jokes and suspense and joy rides and hearts breaking . . . This smart, passionate novel deserves a wide audience.”
–Los Angeles Times

“What drives the novel is its chorus of characters, all, in their own way, witnesses and guardian angels. In the end, Castillo’s unmistakable voice–earthy, impassioned, weaving a ‘hybrid vocabulary for a hybrid people’–is the book’s greatest revelation.”
–Time Out New York

“A wonderful novel . . . Castillo’s most important accomplishment in The Guardians is to give a unique literary voice to questions about what makes up a ‘family.’ ”
–El Paso Times

“A moving book that is both intimate and epic in its narrative.”
–Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly

The acclaimed author of Peel My Love Like an Oniontracks the perilous lives of Mexicans who illegally cross to the U.S. for work. Fifty-something Regina, a poorly paid aide in a public school on the U.S. side, is raising Gabo, the son of her brother, Rafa. Seven years have passed since Gabo's mother, Ximena, was murdered by "coyotes," or paid traffickers, during a crossing, her body mutilated for salable organs. As the novel opens, Rafa, who has continued to travel back and forth for work, is due to arrive, but vanishes. With Miguel Betancourt, a divorced teacher at Regina's school in his mid-30s, Regina tries to confront the coyotes who were supposed to cross Rafa. In alternating first-person chapters, Castillo writes convincingly in the voices of the canny, struggling Regina, who remains a virgin after a being widowed in an unconsummated marriage; the desirous Miguel; the passionately religious Gabo; and El Abuelo Milton, Miguel's elderly grandfather. All are sucked into a vortex of horror as the search for Rafa consumes them. Castillo takes readers forcefully into the lives of the neglected and abused, but missing is a full emotional connection to the protagonists, who remain strangely absent even as their fates are sealed. (Aug.)

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Library Journal

In her latest work, award-winning novelist, poet, and essayist Castillo (Peal My Love Like an Onion) explores the gritty, grimy, and ultimately deadly world of the Mexico-U.S. border. Beautiful, middle-aged Regina, a public school aide, is raising her saintly nephew Gabo. Gabo's mother was murdered seven years ago by "coyotes," traffickers in humans and drugs. Now the boy's father, a frequent border crosser, has gone missing. As Regina begins her frantic search, she works with Miguel, a brilliant, charismatic, and disillusioned teacher whose estranged wife has also disappeared. The story of the anguished searches of these courageous, loving people is variously narrated by Regina, Gabriel, Miguel, and Miguel's grandfather. Castillo's voice is as much political as poetic: she writes of corrupt or powerless officials on both sides. That most of the victims are "legal" makes little difference to the tragic finale of this gripping novel. Highly recommended for academic and larger public libraries.
—Mary Margaret Benson

Kirkus Reviews
Pride and tragedy unfold in this tale of Mexican Americans navigating the artificial border that splits their ancestral homeland. In the latest from Castillo (Watercolor Women, Opaque Men, 2005, etc.), a handful of Mexican Americans in a small town outside El Paso, Texas, tell of their search to find Rafa, an illegal immigrant who constantly returns to Mexico, despite the dangers he faces at each crossing. Regina, Rafa's sister, has U.S. residency and a stable job as a teacher's aide, thanks to her unconsummated marriage to a Vietnam conscript who never made it back. Gabo, Rafa's 15-year-old son who lives with Regina, writes letters to the saint Padre Pi- about the pain of losing his mother, murdered during a border crossing; his fears for his father; and the challenges of daily life shoulder-to-shoulder with gang members and police. American-born Miguel Betancourt, a teacher in Regina's school, is politically astute and passionate about the injustices his people have endured for centuries. Together with Abuelo Milton (Miguel's blind but still dapper grandfather), Miguel, Regina and Gabo face down the "coyotes" who prey on border crossers and who may know of Rafa's whereabouts. Regina, a down-to-earth, hardworking woman in her 50s who struggles to come to grips with her past, is elevated to an object of adoration by these three men-Gabo appreciates her selflessness, Abuelo Milton her beauty and Miguel the fact that she is one of those women "who not only look good but probably rustles steer in their spare time." When tragedy strikes, Regina proves that her heart is big enough to be worthy of their love. Castillo personalizes her characters by allowing them to speak in their own voice,from the heart, and the frequent sprinkling of Spanish words throughout the text underscores the cultural divide between Mexican and Anglo culture. A nuanced, vibrant look at the American experience through Mexican-American eyes. Agent: Susan Bergholz/Susan Bergholz Literary Services

Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
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Meet the Author

Ana Castillo is the author of Peel My Love Like an Onion, So Far from God (a New York Times Notable Book), Sapogonia, and The Mixquiahuala Letters (winner of the American Book Award), as well as the short-story collection Loverboys. Her books of poetry include My Father Was a Toltec, I Ask the Impossible, and Watercolor Women Opaque Men (a novel in verse). She is the recipient of a Carl Sandburg Prize and a Southwestern Booksellers Award. She lives in New Mexico.

From the Hardcover edition.

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Guardians 3.6 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 10 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
jhonatan urbina More than 1 year ago
Im not finished with the book yet but so far its prettuy good...the begining wasd boring but it got entertaining towards the end
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
MAGMG More than 1 year ago
Particularly relevant since the characters and happenings all occur in the El Paso area where I live. The writing style is so indicative of how the locals speak. Ana Castillo captured this perfectly. What the characters say is sometimes hilarious with the way they combine English and Spanish.

A must-read for anyone that lives in this area. For those who don't, it gives a great insight into what life is like for some of the unique characters that live here.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
This story is told from the perspective of 4 individuals living in New Mexico: Regina, Gabo, Miguel, and Milton. Regina is a widow in her 50¿s. Her nephew Gabriel (Gabo) is currently living with her in order to attend school while his father, Rafa, works as a migrant worker. When Rafa mysteriously disappears during an illegal border crossing, Regina turns to a fellow co-worker, Miguel, for help. Milton, Miguel¿s grandfather, takes an interest in mentoring Gabo and helping with the search for Rafa. There was much I found interesting about this story including the Mexican cultural mores and how each of these characters view them, identify with them, and are influenced by them. The only problem I had with the story was with some of the Spanish liberally sprinkled throughout the text. I usually have no problem with this technique when used to add cultural authenticity to dialog, but in this story there were just too many places where the definition of the words used were not readily apparent from the surrounding text which left the reader yearning for a Spanish/English dictionary.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I just finished reading The Guardians and enjoyed the four voices used in the book. Castillo does an incredible job of understanding the culture and life here on the Border. I live in El Paso, TX and now everytime I look at the Franklin Mountains I think of them as Guardians of the people, the earth and the spirit of the Border. It is a great novel of people surviving in a harsh environment, but beautiful in the hearts of the people who live here. Castillo demonstates her versatility in not only being a great poet, but a great novelist.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I enjoyed the book as it paints a very realistic picture of life here on the Border. Castillo's images and words capture the essence of living here on the border. Don't miss a great read.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Guardians: who are they? And who is protecting who in this world of atrocities? What grave responsibility is it on the shoulders of those who sincerely want to save the world from more tragic deterioration? As always and as her writing habit goes, Ana Castillo in her latest novel forces her readers to consider seriously these issues not only as they are taking place at the Mexican-American borders but also as they are taking place worldwide. Ana's novel--The Guardians--is not a work of fiction it is a document and a manifesto against the violations committed by the new pirates of the 21st C. who found their power on crushing the unprivileged. Ana dedicates her book to the 'underclass throughout the world' hoping that everyone will get equal rights to live with dignity. Her words are an out loud cry--hopefully not in the wilderness--one that would wake our conscientiousness and love to the needy. Simply put, No love, No conscientiousness: No hope in a long-lived civilization.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
This book was the most terrible book I've ever read. The characters were interesting; they were round characters. The plot was just like any other story that you may see on the national news nowadays about immigrants living in the U.S. illegally and the dangers of human trafficking. I was required to read this book for an event, but I had a hard time finishing it. Castillo's use of Spanglish was a definite mental road block, which disturbed my train of thought. Although I am Hispanic, I would much rather read a book written in formal Spanish, rather than obscence Spanish with such words like "cabezahead" employed by Castillo. The use of double negatives was also something which irritated me.