There’s been a book in the news lately that was written to capture the immigrant experience. It was then panned as being unrealistic.
Spirit Run is not that book. This is a book that paints such vivid images of a real immigrant family’s experience that there were times I had a visceral reaction to the story.
The author’s story begins when he’s still a high school student in Yakima, Wash. The conditions in which his parents and other migrant workers work are incredibly harsh, and the opportunities for his peers are limited. In spite of, or maybe as a result of, this background, Álvarez earns a full scholarship
College life brought culture shock and Álvarez started evaluating what he was doing with his life. His parents’ experiences weighed heavily on him and when given an opportunity to take part in an epic run through native lands to respect the people from whom it was stolen, he jumps.
The Peace and Dignity Journey (PDJ) is a run that starts in Alaska and runs through Central America. Runners log upwards of 10 miles a day, every day, traveling in vans while other runners keep the journey moving forward. The runners have to be tough—food and water are scarce, money is precious, and no one is particularly welcoming or friendly toward each other. Each runner is there for very personal reasons, different from one person to another.
The run attracts indigenous people from all over the west coast of the North American continent, and this book provides a glimpse into how individuals deal with the loss of their ancestral lands. The run requires, or perhaps provides, exceptional physical and mental strength.
Not only does Spirit Run provide the unique perspective of migrant workers in southeastern Washington State, it opens the door for the reader to really think about the struggles of indigenous peoples. Álvarez is a wonderful writer, able to make the reader feel what he felt without flowery passages or an overabundance of adjectives. This book would make an excellent jumping-off point for a book club discussion or to provide a starting block to learning more about the native tribes of Mexico and the American West.
Spirit Run is available in-store or online through locally-owned Broadway Books as of March 3, 2020. The book is a 240-page paperback and is listed at $26.00. The book is published by local publisher Catapult.