Tochtli is the son of a Mexican drug lord living in a mansion in rural Mexico. To the young Tochtli, it is not a mansion but a ‘palace’, where he spends his days being home schooled and playing with his X-box and watching television on his free time. So cut off from the rest of the world, he, like many children his age, retreats into the world of fantasy.
His father — and his army of servants (who are in reality thugs and criminals of the cartel) — do whatever they can to make the boy’s dreams, wishes and desires come true, including a private zoo which includes birds and a caged tiger. Seen through the boy’s eyes, he doesn’t fully understand what it is that his father actually does and whatever acts of horrific violence he does experience is filtered through the nightly news broadcasts on television. What the boy wants, more than anything else, is a Liberian Pygmy hippopotamus to add to his ever growing collection of animals, toys and especially hats.
One day he gets to travel to Libera with a group of his father’s henchmen, thinking it’s to obtain one of his beloved pygmy hippos. He does not understand what the trip is actually for. He gets his pygmy hippos but something happens that forces the boy to confront horrific violence face to face for the first time in his life.
A very — very — short novel, it packs a hell of a punch. Viewing the events through the eyes of a child only reenforces the horror and dysfunction taking place around him. What lies under the surface throughout the story is what the adult reader will find so disturbing. Brilliantly executed and highly recommended.