In naming his novel Dove Season, Johnny Shaw definitely seemed to be trying to lay out his priorities. His characters do not participate in the seasonal hunting that apparently takes place in the Imperial Valley of Southern California during the time of the story. That's okay. Shaw's goal, I think, is to make a character of the setting. He succeeds. I've never visited this part of the world but enjoyed Mr. Shaw's introduction to it: alfalfa, desert, excursions into Mexico, water rights, and illegal immigration.
I read another novel this year that interprets some of the same experiences, but I'd be lying if I left you with the impression that Dove Season is attempting to paint as rich a picture of the United States and Mexico as Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros. Dove Season does not attempt that historical scope, that poetry. It takes place over a shorter amount of time and involves guns, revenge, murder, death and drinking. Its genre fiction with character development and themes. And its guns and drinking, don't forget.
Jimmy Veeder heads back to the Imperial Valley because his father is dying of cancer. Jimmy left 12 years earlier for college, a literature degree, and what seems to have been a life of underemployment (how unrealistic). Read other reviews if you need more details about the plot but the ball gets rolling when his dying father requests that Jimmy locate a prostitute named Yolanda in Mexico and bring her to his convalescent home. Jimmy, a good son, sets out with an old friend Bobby. Bobby's game for anything. Good thing. Jimmy's first person description of how his body felt the next morning made me wince. And the fun had only just begun.
I'm a literary sort at heart, I guess. Caramelo was rounded down to four stars because I didn't think it was quite five. Dove Season rounded up since it wasn't really three, especially in appreciation of Jimmy's intriguing growth. Still giving its moral implications some thought.
This is an excellent first novel.