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The Line Becomes a River

Dispatches from the Border
Written by: Francisco Cantú
Narrated by: Francisco Cantú
Length: 6 hrs and 30 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (10 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Named a Top 10 book of 2018 by NPR and The Washington Post.

Short-listed for the Andrew Carnegie Medal of Excellence.

Finalist for the National Book Critic Circle's John Leonard Prize.

The instant New York Times best seller

"A must-read for anyone who thinks 'build a wall' is the answer to anything." (Esquire)

For Francisco Cantú, the border is in the blood: his mother, a park ranger and daughter of a Mexican immigrant, raised him in the scrublands of the Southwest. Driven to understand the hard realities of the landscape he loves, Cantú joins the Border Patrol. He and his partners learn to track other humans under blistering sun and through frigid nights. They haul in the dead and deliver to detention those they find alive. 

Plagued by a growing awareness of his complicity in a dehumanizing enterprise, he abandons the Patrol for civilian life. But when an immigrant friend travels to Mexico to visit his dying mother and does not return, Cantú discovers that the border has migrated with him, and now he must know the full extent of the violence it wreaks, on both sides of the line.

©2018 Francisco Cantú (P)2018 Penguin Audio

What the critics say

"Cantú's story, and intelligent and humane perspective, should mortify anyone who ever thought building a wall might improve our lot. He advocates for clarity and compassion in place of xenophobia and uninformed rhetoric. His words are emotionally true and his literary sensibility uplifting." (Barry Lopez, author of Arctic Dreams and Of Wolves and Men )

"This book tells the hard poetry of the desert heart. If you think you know about immigration and the border, you will see there is much to learn. And you will be moved by its unexpected music." (Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil's Highway)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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Excellent listen

An emotional whirlwind of the modern day border situation from someone who was there. Just beyond fantastic. Loved every minute of it.

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Great listen and interesting story.

First hand inside look into a challenging profession and current pressing issue. Easy and interesting listen.

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informative, well written, good performance, tragic

the audio performance was well done making this an enjoyable listen. It was nice to hear the perspective of border patrol; this was the first book on the border I read from this perspective. It was very well written an engaging book which illustrated an important tragic issue.

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  • Hannah-Kate Meadows
  • 2018-07-31

Honest

Unfortunately the author is not as good of a narrator as he is a writer. His monotone was a little hard to take, especially when you’ve become accustomed to Audible’s great narrators. I know this book took a lot of flack from both sides of the immigration debate. I don’t agree with everything the author did, but I liked the balance he provided. I appreciated the fact he was honest even about things he regrets. He talked about being a border patrol agent, how you’re trained and what you see. And he talked about a friendship with an illegal immigrant that was deported and how he was personally touched by what happened. I disagree with the long road to legal citizenship. I disagree with separating families. I’m pro immigration. But I also believe it’s important to see things in a balanced way. And I appreciated the effort of the author to do so.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Patricia Keane
  • 2018-02-25

Vista a dos mundos

A well written book that is a must read for dreamers, and really anyone who in not Native American, because we all came from somewhere else. This book is only a small glimpse at a very complex and complicated problem. Immigration. Our elected government must not continue to ignore this problem as it grows with the passage of time. Thank you Mr.Cantu for sharing your experience, for choosing to remain a member of a human race with a heart and a conscience and to your mother for raising the man you have become. Gracias

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-02-10

A necessary read, I am thankful for

Where do I start?
Every minute of this audio book was powerful.

It is a raw, honest, and heartfelt view of the boarder. It is so eye opening and highlights the humanitarian crisis that happens daily.

I am in tears, of joy and hope.

I am happy people like Francisco exist and share there powerful story.

He put a name, a familiar story to people that cross our boarders.

These stories matter, their names matter.

They are all of us, we are all connected and this book will wake you up and make you realize that.

So thankful I heard him on NPR and found this book.

I am making everyone I know read it. Listen to it .

It is necessary!!

7 of 9 people found this review helpful

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  • Scott Herb H
  • ROCHESTER, NY, US
  • 2018-10-02

Better than expected,; No "Politics"

I believe illegal entry into the country needs to stop. I support a wall or what ever changes allow us to process and document knowingly those who enter.
I also believe the way we conduct border policy favors criminals and hurts the kind of people we need to make citizens.
This story is a personal, informed account demonstrating the troubles with our border policy and how those issues directly affect good people in the wrong way.
Clearly we have policy issues. There must be changes to make it reasonable to keep the right kinds of people in this country while keeping the bad out.
Loved the candor of this book..

4 of 5 people found this review helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2018-03-01

Such a powerful message

I don't know what the answers are, but this book begs for answers for this painful, angry subject. more people in power need to see these people as people, not things to be dealt with.

3 of 4 people found this review helpful

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  • medic0681
  • 2018-02-17

found it very interesting

What did you love best about The Line Becomes a River?

I appreciated and enjoyed the inclusion of border history/formation with his modern day story. thanks.

2 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Crystal Zevon
  • 2019-04-29

Every American should listen to this

Most Americans have a skewed view toward what actually happens at the border. This memoirs from a former border patrol agent is not only riveting, but sheds light on the realities facing migrants and those whose job it is to detain and deport them. I was in tears many times while listening to this story.

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  • Kindle Customer
  • Miami, Florida
  • 2019-04-24

Sad, how true it is

Told with great empathy. I worked, volunteering, with detainees at a detention center to complete forms, file papers, find sponsors, contact families. Most were deported. I'm in contact with many. All Africans who had traveled via Brazil, then up the West coast of South and Central America, through Mexico. Many of their friends died along the way.
Always wondered if there was an agent..border... ICE, detention, who had real empathy. And I'm still waiting for immigration reform. But it's too easy to keep the system going, to blame the victims for all wrongs.
Would love to meet the author.

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  • ALFREDO V.
  • 2019-04-08

Must read

Such an amazing book. It’s a must read for anyone wanting to know more about the struggles people face every day trying to cross the border. Thank God for those people in our police and military fields that have hearts for others. I want to read this book all over again!

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  • Elastigirl22
  • 2019-03-15

Eye opener. My naivete has been diminished.

As a lifelong citizen of where the line becomes a river and as a former federal employee, I can't help but identify with many parts of the author's inner conflict. His detailed descriptions of places, situations and people he encounters throughout the telling of his experience as a Border Patrol agent are vivid and helped learn of some parts of humanity I may have unconsciously chosen to ignore.

My ignorance has been replaced with an awakening.