Lawrence F. Lihosit ( (Honduras 1975–77)
February 2018 (originally published in 2009)
Reviewed by David H. Greegor (Mexico 2007–11)
Earlier this year I reviewed Mr. Lihosit’s book, Americruise, which I found to be a fun and eventually engaging read once I came to understand his wacky humor. Border Penance, a set of six serious short stories set in Mexico and Central America, was intended to be suspense-filled. I found them mildly interesting, but not suspenseful. Furthermore, the stories varied considerably in their coherence and quality.
The first story, Holiday Obituary, was so confusing I had to read it twice and even then it didn’t seem to match the synopsis that Mr. Lihosit included. One of the problems that the author has is that he puts too much extraneous, unrelated detail into his stories so that the reader can’t follow the thread. This is true of the first four stories but I found the last two, Effigy and Marimba, excellent, beautiful stories with great imagery, flow and not full of useless, distracting detail. The second story, Just a Game, is supposed to be about and American in Mexico City prior to the 1968 Olympics but it isn’t clear about his alleged involvement with the intelligence activities, which I assume is the writer’s intention. The third story, Opposition, seems to end unfinished. The synopsis says it is about a taxi driver who gets involved with his neighbors in a citizen’s action group and pursued by unknown men. It wasn’t clear why the unknown men were pursuing Pedro unless it is because he was committing a crime by going to a citizen’s clandestine meeting.
All in all, with the exception of the final two stories, the first four contained too much detail about irrelevant things to maintain the story thread. Border Penance, story four is far too long with chapter titles that make no sense.
I would only recommend this book for the last two stories. Lihosit needs to tell straighter narratives with details that are relevant. He obviously can write beautiful, coherent, and cohesive stories with good imagery as demonstrated by the last two. If compared to my little book of ten stories entitled, Going to Mexico is about our Peace Corps experience from 2007 – 2011 and all ten are based on personal experiences; Lihosit’s stories are fiction. I also stuck to humor which I do best and did not attempt to do anything other than tell a story with only enough detail to make them funny. The six stories in Border Penance, as far as I know, are not based on personal experiences and are totally serious.
Dr. David Greegor (Mexico 2007-11) is a Research Associate and Curator of Herpetology at the Orma J. Smith Museum of Natural History, College of Idaho and the author of Going To México, Stories of My Peace Corps Service published in 2017.