Illegal: a true story of love, revolution and crossing borders – John Dennehy

(Reviewed by JD Jung)


“For the first time in my life I know exactly where I want to be. I have found my home in the shadow of an Andean volcano in Ecuador. I’m about to move in with the woman that I love, and I’m directly involved with a revolution that’s not just changing my adoptive nation but changing me.”

However, this was all to change along with John’s idealist view of national borders.

John Dennehy , an American college student , was disillusioned with his country after the U. S. invaded Iraq. After George W. Bush’s reelection, he felt that he could no longer stay in his country of birth. He chose to move to South America because of the countries’ continual resistance to American capitalism.

He found a job online teaching English in Cuenca, Ecuador. He immediately fell in love with the culture and people. He also fell in love with a particular woman, Lucia, with whom he had a volatile relationship.

John didn’t believe in national borders and refused to apply for a work visa. Instead he chose a travel visa, where he had to leave the country every ninety days in order to return. He also participated in farmers’ and workers’ protests against free trade agreements.

Unfortunately the results of the “revolution” didn’t turn out the way he envisioned. The new leaders continued the  corrupt policies of their predecessors. Also a strong wave of nationalism swept the country. The latter didn’t dissuade him as John was deported, and continued to illegally cross borders, even at the risk of serving jail time. During all of this, he found that his relationship with Lucia was full of lies and deception.

Illegal is a true, personal story of love for a country and love for a woman. We learn how this naïve young man handles his disappointments, unwilling to give up on his dream. This is even to the point of justifying his unscrupulous actions towards others in order to keep this dream alive. John also lets us explore the fascinating culture and changing political climate of Ecuador and Colombia along with him.

The structure of the book and the writing style also keeps us engaged, as we’re not sure what will happen next and how this will all affect John in the end. I appreciate that he doesn’t make excuses for himself, and retells his story in a pragmatic way.

What are John Dennehy’s views on the future of the world, globalism and national borders now? You’ll just have to read this fascinating book for yourself.

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