Wow. What an intense read.
The novel begins with a teenage boy, Pedro, living as much of a “normal” life on his family farm as he can with the ongoing civil war between the guerrillas, the Colombian government & private armies. After Pedro is forced to watch the execution of his father by the guerrilla, he vows revenge against his father’s murderers. Pedro drops out of school to join the private army, the Autodefencas, to fight the guerrilla forces.
The story follows Pedro from the age of 15-18 & his rise in the ranks of the Autodefencas. We follow his friends from back home as well as his fellow soldiers. We are privy to the inner workings of the trainings of a private army, their leaders & their missions. We also follow Pedro’s mission to avenge his father’s execution by utilizing his rank in the Autodefencas to hunt down the 5 men responsible for his father’s death.
This novel is not an easy read, but a good one as you are pulled into Pedro’s life from the very beginning. Many times I had to remind myself that these are 14/15/16 year olds committing these acts of violence. What makes this novel more unsettling is that, while a fictionalized account, some parts of the story are based on real events pulled from interviews with real child soldiers. It is a well-written & researched account as the author draws from his own experiences in a U.S. government counter-terrorism program in anti-kidnapping & historical research.
*Many thanks to Lily Green & publisher Havelock And Baker for the free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.*
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