I picked up this book by Daniel Mason on a whim at the library, based really on the cover and the possibilities described on the jacket. I'm glad I did. This isn't a cheery novel. It has somewhat of a post-apocalyptic feel to it, although it certainly isn't post-apocalyptic.
Isabel and her family live in an unknown third world country in an unknown time, which gives the book its post-apocalyptic feel, and they are desperately poor. Their country is ravaged by droughts. Isabel's beloved older brother Isaias sets off for the city to find work. The next year, Isabel's parents send her off to the city to take care of her cousin's baby. At 14, she is terrified but determined: her only goal is to find Isaias. Over the course of the next several months, she drags the baby over the city in search of Isaias. All she knows is that Isaias, a musician, plays in a band, somewhere.
Mason's description of life among the poor in the Settlements, the slums of the city, is vivid and heartwrenching. Isabel is desperate to find her brother, yet she begins to make a life for herself in the Settlements. She has no hopes of ever getting out of the slums, and she seems content with her place in life—if only she can find Isaias.
Will she find him? I'm not telling. Read the book. Mason's writing is beautiful, and while the novel isn't the slightest bit happy, the journey with Isabel is worth taking.