By Sheryl Hamlin
Al Guilin of Santa Paula has released his seventh novel: Not All Barriers are WALLS.
Deacon Guilin’s oeuvre is a product of his agriculture industry expertise, church commitment and his own multi-generational family. Set primarily in Santa Paula, California, the characters have ties to past generations in other countries.
Having mastered the art of coincidence, Guilin leads the reader quickly through the story giving premonitory clues which may not be resolved until the end.
The gruesome gang related murder of Pablo Real’s family and destruction of the family home in Mexico leave the child alone and bitter. The family priest instructs the boy in the dangerous escape to the United States. Along the way, the boy encounters people who help him through the obstacle course.
Lemon trees provide the boy not only with an important source of income as a picker, but a lifelong friend of another race and generation who is also overcoming obstacles. The lemon grove is a place of solace or meditation for the boy even as he ages.
Lemon trees took Pablo to college, to citizenship, to marriage and to a business, along with hard work, good judgment and great luck.
Symbols in the book reflect the author’s Christian calling. The cross in Christianity has been seen as “the tree of life” and as the source of eternal life. Trees furnish life giving food and drink as well as knowledge, and the tree of life is a device for redemption in the Christian Bible, so it makes sense that a Catholic Deacon has a reverence for trees.
The name Pablo Real is the “real” or “authentic” human who matures gracefully across the pages. Of Pablo’s family home, destroyed by the gangs, only his father’s hand dug well remains. Who can miss the baptismal symbolism when Pablo returns home freed from the previous malice in his heart. And, the beautiful child named Alma is the soul of his heart.
The entire story is a backdrop to the need for immigration reform in the United States. The merits of the H2B program versus the Bracero program are discussed by various people in the book. Also present are those who would profit by culturally divisive politics.
Local readers will recognize familiar names and places in Ventura County. The international nature of the humanity in the book is a statement for our own times.
Al Guilin’s books are available on Amazon or from the author: [email protected]
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