Melancholy truths are hard to ignore, or forget, in Michel Stone's powerful and harrowing saga of a Mexican couple making their way across the border to a lowcountry South Carolina farm. Read More
Library Journal says The Iguana Tree “recalls the work of John Steinbeck.” Kirkus Reviews calls it “exceptional … a haunting tale of hope and heartbreak.” Publishers Weekly gives it a starred review.
Michel Stone’s debut novel, set against the backdrop of illegal immigration, is one family’s story of fateful decisions, risky border crossings, and a struggle for humanity. With a dream of a more prosperous life for his family, Héctor crosses into America on a harrowing journey in a welded-shut metal compartment under a delivery truck, making his way to a job on a tree farm on Edisto Island, SC. He tells Lilia, his young wife, to stay behind with her newborn until he can pay for her travel. Impulsive and impatient, Lilia abandons her village, hands off her baby to a smuggler who should not have been trusted, and swims the dark Rio Grande. The tragedy unfolds across the southern United States. As Michel Stone weaves her tale of hope and human dignity, of sorrow and suffering, we see not only the devastating consequences of Lilia’s and Héctor’s decisions, but the consequences of decisions we have made as a society and as a nation. With its themes of loss, betrayal, and redemption, The Iguana Tree has the resonance of myth.
The Iguana Tree is a spring "Okra Pick" from the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance and is funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts. The book was a community read in Hermiston, OR in 2013.
"Héctor and Lilia's hopes and trepidations are poignant and honest, and Stone manages to deftly address a serious political and humanitarian issue without seeming heavy-handed. Well-written, expertly paced, and timely." ―Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Stone has done exceptional work in making real the struggles and despair, the resolute discipline and hope, driving the desire to find a better life while also illuminating unexpected connections of near-familial love among people of difference cultures who live and work together. A haunting tale of hope and heartbreak." ―Kirkus Reviews
“Michel Stone has written a stirring novel of love and courage under the most daunting of conditions. The Iguana Tree is an impressive debut by a very talented author.” ―Ron Rash, author of Serena and Waking
“Until I read Michel Stone’s superb novel I seldom thought about the host of aliens, legal or otherwise, coming into this country. Experiencing ‘crossings’ with Lilia and Héctor, the alternating points of view in this novel, has changed me. Stone brings the story to the perfect denouement, and as much as I ached for a different outcome, I realized that this fine writer had correctly chosen reality over happily ever after, while leaving the reader room for hope. This is a captivating page-turner.” ―Anna Jean Mayhew, author of The Dry Grass of Autumn
“You will be totally caught up in the touch and taste and roiling emotions of these characters as they make their treacherous journey across the border. All they want is hope for the future. What they get is an extraordinarily cruel struggle. What we get as readers is an absorbing and profoundly affecting glimpse into the dark underbelly of the experiences these courageous human beings face on their way to becoming our fellow Americans. There’s no denying the brutal beauty, the keen intelligence of this book.” ―Judy Goldman, author of Early Leaving and The Slow Way Back
“Michel Stone writes with care and compassion, with close attention to the ambiguities built into U.S. policy toward undocumented workers from south of the border. Her story is powerful, its melancholy truths hard to ignore, or forget.” ―C. Michael Curtis, fiction editor of The Atlantic
“Michel Stone’s first novel, The Iguana Tree, is an astonishing achievement, a daring but plausible leap into a world unnoted by most of us yet close around us daily. Stone exposes the life-and-death decisions, the perilous border crossings, and the consequent and continuous danger of exposure, which a now-considerable portion of our Mexican population has been forced to navigate. This particular story is at once a page-turner and a moving, psychologically genuine drama of a family in crisis.” ―Rosa Shand, author of The Gravity of Sunlight
"Stone turns a highly politicized subject into a deeply human predicament by homing in with piercing clarity on her characters’ inner struggles to create a hard-to-forget story of the devastation brought about by a simple wish for a better life." ―Booklist
"Even though the topics of illegal immigration and undocumented workers in the US set the background for Stone’s tale, the book isn’t overtly political. Stone’s palpable, skillful prose prevails as its principal achievement. With a precise rendering of place and character and a genuine, emotional poignancy, The Iguana Tree is noteworthy storytelling." ―Foreword Reviews
"The Iguana Tree is a triumph—an enjoyable and informative story on an important topic. Ms. Stone has found the sweet spot at the junction of journalism, fiction, and narrative-nonfiction and she’s established herself as an author to watch." ―New York Journal of Books