A border patrolman’s harrowing memoir

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The Line Becomes a River. By Francisco Cantú. Riverhead Books; 256 pages; $26. Bodley Head; £14.99.

FRANCISCO CANTÚ signed up for the United States Border Patrol hoping that his experiences would “unlock” the puzzle of the border. But policing the 2,000-mile Mexican frontier, scanning mountain trails for footprints and sniffing the air for rotten corpses, left him only with more questions. “I don’t know how to put it into context, I don’t know where I fit in it all,” he confides one day to a fellow agent. “Damn,” says the other patrolman. “That shit is deep.”

Mr Cantú’s four years on the border provide stories from this no-man’s-land that mix compassion with quiet anger at the cruelty of man and nature. It is wild, untamed country where by night agents douse cacti in hand sanitiser and set them alight for the hell of it. But there is beauty in the desolation. Satellites drift across the clear, starry sky. Mr Cantú has an eye for the…Continue reading

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