“What You Wish For” by Janet Dawson / Monday, September 10, 2012 / Reviewed by Clay Stafford

Today’s featured book is “What You Wish For” by Janet Dawson.

What You Wish For

Why Clay Stafford chose this book:

Lindsey Page’s world is about to change: her estranged daughter comes home, her friends are not what she thought they were, and a Salvadorian woman she meets is about to wreck her world.

I usually speed-read novels, but this is one that I had to take slowly. Not because it was hard to read, but because this is a novel that required me to think. This is a novel you want to savor as much for the context of the story, as for the story itself.

It’s plot driven. Things happen. But underneath it all is an undercurrent of themes and motifs. The story provides a powerful contrast between the affluence of San Francisco and the jungles of El Salvador, from which the conflict emerges.

The spine of the story is based on the atrocious 1981 massacre that took place in El Mozote, El Salvador (one of the defining black eyes of the Reagan administration and the failing credibility of American journalism). El Mozote is masked in “What You Wish For” as a fictional town, but the parallel is clearly there. Men are murdered. Women and children are raped and murdered. The most adorable children are kidnapped and sold. Happy Americans thinking they are doing good adopt the children. The U.S. political system covers up the atrocity. Conservative newspapers protect their treasured politicians. Certain American businesses thrive. More families are murdered. The cycle repeats. All, it seems, because we like to drink coffee. And then one day, a Salvadorian refugee in the U.S. sees a boy who looks like her kidnapped son…

The entire book is about conflict: them and us, differing politics, San Francisco then and now, the haves and the have-nots, justice and injustice, giving as a parent versus holding back, on and on. Told through multiple flashbacks, the story spans from 1970s to present and covers many a hotbed subject.

If you like your stories delicate with a touch of cream and sugar, this one is not for you. “What You Wish For” is as black and sometimes bitter as it can get.

From the publisher:

“History professor Lindsey Page has a quiet, well-ordered life, but it’s about to get complicated. Her daughter, with whom she has a troubled relationship, shows up on her doorstep. The immigrant woman Lindsey is interviewing for a book asks her for help in reclaiming the son taken from her during a massacre in her Salvadoran village. And her closest friends, the three women Lindsey has known since their college days in Berkeley where they witnessed the kidnapping of Patty Hearst, are hiding secrets that will forever change those friendships. Lindsey must grapple with questions of family identity, nature vs. nurture, truth in wartime, the ethics of power for latter-day robber barons in the US and Central America, and the law of unforeseen consequences. Moving back and forth from the 1970s to the present, from the San Francisco Bay Area to El Salvador this sprawling saga follows Lindsey, her friends, and family through tumultuous political, social, and cultural changes and choices.”

If you want to make your own comments on this selection, we would love to hear from you. Join ourFacebook Killer Nashville group page or our blog and join in the discussion.

Remember that these books are listed at a discount through Amazon. You also don’t have to purchase the version that is featured here. Many of these books are available in multiple formats: e–book, hardcover, softcover, and audio. Enjoy!

– Clay Stafford, Founder of Killer Nashville