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Kilometer 99: A Novel

Kilometer 99: A Novel - Tyler Mcmahon I got an advance copy of this book from FirstReads.

While I'm not usually prone to profanity in my reviews, it seems to me that this book is most aptly summarized by the phrase "shit happens".

As a location novel, it works well. It's set in El Salvador at the beginning of 2001, and the details of the lives of two Peace Corps volunteers (or ex-volunteers) are effortlessly worked into the story. I really enjoyed the descriptions of the towns and people of El Salvador. And the surfing is great. I could practically hear the ocean waves through the text.

The plot is a downer, though. Bad luck heaped on bad decisions on bad luck, followed by more bad decisions and bad luck. The first-person narrative, told by Malia, desperately tries to pull life lessons from what's happening. She gives up and then dives back in and then gives up, and then tries and screws up. She tries to make sense of it all as she goes.

But the chaos and yes, the shit, win. But then they don't. It's the old saying about standing up more times than you are knocked down, I guess. But by the end of the novel I was ready to give up on Malia. Several times I wanted to knock on her skull and tell her she needed to think things through a little before doing them. The ending felt like another pyrrhic victory, leaving more questions than answers.