This searing novel about three Latinos lost north of the border is not for the faint of heart. In the opening chapter, Jesús — based on a Mexican serial murderer known as the Railroad Killer — gang-rapes and stabs a prostitute. As Jesús, both victim and monster, slips into drugs, sexual abuse, psychosis, incest and necrophilia, Paz Soldán perfectly modulates the tension, evincing our sympathy even as we recoil. . . .
“One should show compassion to all creatures scrabbling along their path in life, should be willing to throw a cloak of pity over the shoulders of even a man like Jesús,” the ranger leading the manhunt ponders. We don’t forgive, but we understand. This is the Bolivian-born Paz Soldán’s miraculous gift. With unflinching realism and steely grace, “Norte” reminds us why literature can do what journalism cannot: We inhabit the minds of people we’d prefer to forget.
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