Mule: A Novel of Moving Weight by Tony D’Souza (pub date 9/27/11)
“And what about myself? Didn’t I hate myself too? To risk my freedom? To think I was so worthless only money could make me better?”
I’ve always found stories of “good guys gone bad” to be extremely compelling. It’s probably why “Breaking Bad” is such a popular show. In the same vein, Mule is a novel about an average man who chooses a life of crime out of desperation, and the consequences that follow.
James and Kate were successful young adults who had everything going for them, until life dealt them the triple-whammy of an unplanned pregnancy and both of them losing their jobs in the Great Recession. After several months of living in poverty in a cabin in rural California, James finds an opportunity to make some real money. A friend of Kate’s has been growing top-grade marijuana, and James offers to transport the product to Texas where another friend can sell it for a profit. It all starts out so simply, just one pound of pot. But when James meets a man in Florida who deals in bulk, James soon finds himself making regular cross-country runs with large quantities of the drug. And he soon finds that all the money he makes comes with a price: buyers who won’t pay, friends who abandon him, and drug dealers who turn on him.
What surprised me the most about this book was the amount of information about drug smuggling and money laundering in it. Pages and pages are dedicated to describing what to say to a cop if you get pulled over with drugs in the car, how to best avoid attracting police attention, and how to hide money from the bank. As someone who worked in retail banking for two years, I can say that the information about bank practices was frighteningly accurate. It was interesting to read how James’s new profession affected his marriage to Kate, and how his character changed throughout the story. I would like to have seen Kate’s character fleshed out a little more. She struck me as unlikeable even at the beginning of the book and didn’t seem to change much later.
Still Mule is an interesting novel. It certainly reflects the time period it was written in. The plight of average Americans who lost their jobs in the recession is still a very real and relatable phenomenon. It’s a very realistic story and I think it could become popular upon its release.