Íso, a young Guatemalan woman, works at a fertility clinic at Ixchel, in the highlands of the Sierra Madre de Chiapas. She tends to the rich northern women who visit the clinic hoping that the waters of the nearby lake might increase their chances of conception. Like many of the women working at the clinic, Íso is aware of the resident American doctor, Eric Mann. Soon Íso is his secret lover, stealing away with Dr. Mann on long motorcycle rides through the mountains and enjoying beach vacations with Eric and his doctor friends. But their tryst does not last long. Dr. Mann decides he will return to the US, and a freak accident cuts the couple’s time together even shorter. Before Íso can tell Dr. Mann that she is pregnant, he is gone.
After the birth of her daughter, the baby is taken from her. The director of the clinic informs Íso that her child is in America. Determined to reclaim her stolen daughter, Íso makes her way north through Mexico, eventually crossing illegally into a United States divided into military zones. Travelling without documentation, and with little money, Íso descends into a world full of danger. In a place of shifting boundaries, Íso must determine who she can trust and how much, aware that she might lose her daughter forever.
The profound intelligence and political resonance we have come to expect from Bergen sit front and centre in Stranger, contributing to the growing legacy of this Giller Prize–winning author. With its themes of dislocation and disruption, of power and vulnerability, of rich and of poor, Stranger is a powerfully resonant political novel for our times.