Here’s a book review that is long overdue. We originally requested a review copy of American Nomads by Richard Grant, but to make a long story short, we got to review God’s Middle Finger instead. And I’m glad we did.
René read it first. She’s a much faster reader than I am, and suggested I write the review – hence the delay. Perhaps she knows a bit too much about my sordid high school daze. Or that I would just love any book filled with drug references that starts off with a thrilling scene straight out of Scarface. Nevertheless, I did. Love the book that is.
But even more than learning the meaning of perico, I enjoyed discovering the truth about just how safe it is to travel through the Sierra Madre, not. The books subtitle gives it a way – “Into the Lawless Heart of the Sierra Madre.” But it doesn’t quite begin to describe the crazy deadly adventure Grant dragged himself on, deeper and deeper into Mexico’s mountainous region known mostly for marijuana plantations and cocaine production.
Any history buff interested in Pancho Villa will enjoy reading God’s Middle Finger; because in it, Grant follows the trail of the legendary bandido. At points, a bit too far.
This book is also a must-read for any RVer considering one of those caravans through Copper Canyon. Yes, it is definitely better to travel in numbers. And yes, the dangers have been much worse in the past. But if Grant’s tale about the Copper canyon train being held up by narcos pissed off at regional authorities is any indication, I won’t be going anytime soon. I’d much rather just read about it.
From the People’s Guide to Mexico Copper Canyon Tourism Page …
“In the unlikely event of a train robbery, be calm, quiet and cooperative. In other words, don’t argue; just hand over the loot.”
The book does serve as a good guide for anyone who dares to travel off the beaten path south of the border. It offers much advice similar to the above that just might save your life. Like … be sure to speak Spanish, don’t look anyone in the eye, and never turn them down if they offer you a drink. And if they do, prepare to get muy intoxicado before saying goodnight.
I also like any book that talks about places we’ve been. And after reading this one, I’m glad we didn’t walk much further than we did away from the Plaza in Agua Prieta on our five dollar Mexican vacation last year. Or places I would love to see, and this one does a wonderful job vividly illustrating the beautiful terrain of the Sierra Madre and the drunken religious rituals of the Tarahumara Indians.
Once discovering how the opening scene winds up at the end of Grant’s book, one can’t help but wonder why he traveled so compulsively on such an uncertain path. He answers this question quite succinctly early in chapter three …
“I felt a rush of excitement, a sensation of being fully alive and immersed in the present moment.”
This too, is is the driving force behind my wanderlust.
Grant’s adventures might make a great movie. But without being the first hand documentary that this book is, it would most certainly end up being one of those “You should’ve read the book first” flicks. I’ll gladly settle for this Amazon video which sheds some light on the reasoning behind Grant’s chosen title for God’s Middle Finger:
PS: For anyone who might be wondering how I embedded this video from Amazon.com, when Amazon’s media Share link does not include object embed code, never underestimate the power of your browser’s “View Page Source” function! 😉