Tom Dillon, retired newspaperman, may not exactly be a “young adult,” but that doesn’t keep him from appreciating this novel aimed at that category.
ACROSS THE FACE OF THE STORM. By Jerome R. Adams. Guernica Editions. 186 pages, $17.95 paperback.
Reviewed by Tom Dillon
You may know something about the American Revolution, but chances are you don’t know much about the Mexican Revolution of the early 20th century. In fact, like most Americans, you may not know much about Mexico at all.
And that’s one very good reason for reading Jerry Adams’ Across the Face of the Storm, described as a novel for young adults, but in fact a gripping story for all ages.
The story follows the saga of two teenagers, Isabel Cooper, 17, and Frederick Cooper, 15, children of a Scotch-Irish father and Yaqui Indian mother, as they leave their Washington, D.C., home to try to find their missing father after their mother’s untimely death.
They know their father is somewhere in Mexico, apparently teamed up with rebels fighting the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz, and that’s where this adventurous pair head, first by train, then by stagecoach and wagon. They don’t know it at first, but they’re headed straight into the battle of Ciudad Juarez, a turning point of the fight.
The two are put off by what they see of the turn-of-the-century American South, but then they learn of the “quiet dignity” – the publisher’s words – of their mother’s homeland. After an ugly incident not of their own making, they escape the “federales” – federal police – and are led to refuge with a ragtag militia on its way to join the revolutionary army.
Adams’ novel mixes characters real and imagined. Isabel and Frederick are fictional, but others are not. The militia is led by Lucia Quinones Beltran, a woman and former teacher known to her troops as La Maestra. Under her tutelage, Isabel and Frederick learn to fight. They also win friends and comrades-in-arms.
Much excitement ensues – arrests, close calls, horse stealing, rifle fire and artillery. But perhaps that’s as far as this review should follow the story. Do Isabel and Frederick find their father? What happens to the militia and its heroes? You’ll have to read the story to find out, and you’ll find it worth your time. And one extra word: Be sure to read Adams’ epilogue. It will tell you even more about Mexico.
A disclaimer here: Jerry Adams is a former colleague whose writing I admire. He is a veteran journalist with a great narrative sense and a lot of experience in Latin America, beginning with years in the Peace Corps in Colombia. He’s a former reporter for the Charlotte Observer and Winston-Salem Journal, among others, as well as a freelance writer and teacher.
And with this novel, he’s done his part for bringing an understanding of Mexican history to more readers.
Tom Dillon is a retired journalist in Winston-Salem.