Libertad Gonzalez has spent her life on the road with her trucker dad, crisscrossing the United States. Somehow, she ends up in the Mexicali Penal Institute for Women. While life in jail isn’t a walk in the park, it can be an afternoon on the beach. This is because the Mexican prison and those who run it are open to bribery. One of the wealthy women living in the Mexicali Penal Institute has sand brought in and transforms the prison yard to a beach. The warden is a (rule-breaking) character as are the inmates.
Libertad is a reader. She decides to start a prison book club. The club regularly meets to hear Libertad read aloud. Although Libertad picks different books, it is very clear that she is not really reading them. She is telling her own story of life on the road, of her father the literature professor who ran from the Mexican government and became a truck driver in the U.S.
Every storytelling session ends on the cliff-hanger—you have to continue to read to find out happen happens next. Libertad’s fellow inmates and listeners have to come back to the book club to learn her story. More and more come each day. They start to guess at the outcome, about the plot elements, the twists of fate that led Libertad into a Mexican prison. They argue over the way the story will—or should—continue. In short, they embrace the life and tale of ‘Mudflap Girl’ before they finally learn about the awful thing that Libertad has done that landed her there. And they may be able to help her make amends.
High school housekeeping: On this Throwback Thursday, the popularity of Orange is the New Black got me thinking about books with women in prison. Gonzalez and Daughter Trucking Company is a wonderful novel about the pleasure of storytelling and of listening to a great story. The lineage for this sort of tale goes all the back to The 1001 Arabian Nights (tales of Shahrazad) and includes the recent bestseller A Tale for the Time Being. Libertad will charm you with her tale of life on the road and the impending sense of doom. You’ll want to keep turning the pages, and at the same time you won’t want to come to the end of this story.