Mecca is a messy book. It spreads out past the confines of a single main character. It moves from place to place in Southern California. It shifts from first to second to third person. It sprawls, but the centrifugal force of shared humanity holds it together. The somewhat central character is a motorcycle highway patrol officer who has a very proscribed and limited life because he committed a crime early in his career, a crime he fears will come to light someday but then he seems to see exposure by seeking out the witness. Then there is an undocumented hotel maid who relies on following the rules to survive suddenly confronted with an abandoned baby. There is a nurse and her family during COVID and meteor showers. Then, a young man is shot by a cop and his grieving mother sits at his bedside, facing impossible choices.
There is so much, but never too much. There is a lot of pain, but also love and family. Love and family, are a source of joy and of risk. Both are explored with compassion and love for the characters.
I struggled with Mecca at first. I had a few false starts, not even getting halfway through the first chapter. Then it just clicked the third or fourth time I picked it up and I read it straight through the night. In the end, I loved this book. These people seemed so disparate but the connections were there from long ago friendships, connecting the Latinos who have lived in California longer than the white people who suggest they go back where they came from to undocumented workers who are recent arrivals. There is a melange of experiences, multi-racial characters, Latino, indigenous, Black, Creole, Californio, marginalized in a land that was once their own.
I received an e-galley of Mecca from the publisher through NetGalley.