July 25, 2014 5:03 pm

‘Bulletproof Vest’, by Maria Venegas

A daughter’s paean to her outlaw father and the life he led, replete with memory and tenderness

In Bulletproof Vest, Maria Venegas tells the haunting story of her father’s life as a gun-wielding Mexican outlaw, and how his violent existence informed her own identity.

After being estranged from her father Jose for 14 years, Venegas is persuaded by her boyfriend to attempt a reconciliation. She travels from her home in New York to the Mexican state of Zacatecas, where both she and Jose were born. As they repair barbed-wire fences and herd cattle together, he reluctantly begins to tell her about his brutal past, full of killing, alcoholism and drug cartels – but also full of intense love.

Venegas intertwines these tales with an account of her own childhood, her memory of her father, the evangelical Christian mother whom she struggles to understand, and her shift into adulthood, when she has her own experience of violence. Told in sparse, Spanish-infused prose, Bulletproof Vest mythologises a family history that is – for the most part – compelling and impactful.

Bulletproof Vest: The Ballad of an Outlaw and His Daughter, by Maria Venegas, Granta RRP£15.99, 320 pages

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