Living with his family in a prison in Bolivia due to his parents’ convictions for drug trafficking, twelve-year-old Diego does his best to live a normal life, but when his mother receives additional fines, Diego risks everything to earn quick money.
I read this novel because of the odd title. Diego, age 12, lives in a prison in Cochabamba, Bolivia. His parents, falsely accused of smuggling drugs, must serve out a 16 year sentence. Diego, however, can come and go; he attends school and earns money as a “taxi,” running errands for other inmates. After a stroke of bad luck, Diego is forced to look for additional ways to make money. His friend, Mando, convinces him “big money” will come from working for foreign men deep in the jungle. The men turn out to be cocaine smugglers and the boys become slaves in the coca pits, stomping coca leaves into a paste that will become cocaine. Attempting escape, Mando dies and Diego barely escapes with his life. The ending of the book is as odd as the title, but the fast pace will keep readers glued to the text, eager to find out if Diego ever sees his family again. I learned a great deal about prison life, “taxi” work and the production of cocaine and plan to read the sequel, Sacred Leaf, very soon.
Recommended by: Nancy Poppleton, Glendale Branch
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