Author: Tyler McMahon
Length: 339 pages
Genre: literary fiction
Plot Basics: Malia is finishing up a Peace Corps project when an earthquake hits El Salvador, destroying what she’s been working on and her optimism. When Ben, her boyfriend, suggests abandoning the Peace Corps for an epic surfing trip through Central and South America, Malia agrees. Then, as they prepare, they find themselves in the company surfer-cum-developer Pelochucho and a series of shady land deals, theft, drug running and catastrophe.
Banter Points: I loved loved loved Tyler McMahon’s debut novel, “How the Mistakes Were Made” so I was very interested in his sophomore effort. (Sophomore, as is second, not as in intellectually pretentious like a sophomore.) “Kilometer 99” is a literary novel for people who think they don’t like literary novels. McMahon’s writing is very accessible and yet is laden with great turns of phrase, description and characters.
While there’s a lot of character in this novel, the plot is also a great set of events in a developing country. McMahon doesn’t sugar-coat what happens in other parts of the world and he doesn’t glorify the work of aid workers and volunteers in the Peace Corps either.
Bummer Points: Malia was a bit unbelievable to me. When things went really wrong, I didn’t believe that she wouldn’t have left El Salvadaor instantly. The surfing descriptions also had moments of being too much because as a Midwesterner, I have zero concept of waves and surfing.
Word Nerd Recommendation: Worth the read, especially for people who have spent time in a developing country.