Brandon Vanderkool, the protagonist of Border Songs, has some of the symptoms of Asbergers Syndrome. He's six foot eight inches tall, a birder and an artist. He works for the border patrol along a section of the border between Washington State an British Colombia. He lives on the dairy farm where he grew up, with his parents and can look from there across the ditch which marks the border, to the home of the father of the Canadian girl that he is in love with. She is in the marijuana smuggling business.
Jim Lynch describes Brandon as dislexic, but I see borderline autism in his social ineptitude, his amazing attention to detail, his difficulty with filtering out stimuli. Because he must pay attention to everything at once, in detail, he "accidentally" captures smugglers, illegal aliens and terrorist suspects that others in the border patrol don't see. He also takes time in the middle of his work day to build giant bird's nests and release strings of sewn together leaves floating down a stream. Brandon paints portraits of all the people he catches crossing the border illegally.
The characters in Border Songs are complex, well rounded and surprising. Brandon's mother is in the early stages of Alzheimers. His father has building a sailboat in a barn on the farm for years but he is running out of money. Wayne Rousseau smokes pot to help control the symptoms of MS. He also paints copies of Picasso's last painting and reinvents the light bulb, for the experience. Madeline Rousseau wants out of the drug business and becomes more and more entangled in it day by day.
There are several plot threads running through the book: Brandon's BP adventures, Brandon's art, Norm's troubles with the dairy farm and his sailboat, the pot growing and smuggling business, Wayne Rousseau's experiential experiments, Sophie Winslow's documentary film making or massage business or whatever it is she is really doing here anyhow, the ineptitude of the United States government. All of these themes are woven together in a way that makes the basic boy meets girl plot work very well indeed.
Border Songs is character driven. Each of these people becomes a real person that you want to know. What are these people like, rather than what happens next, is what kept my interest, reading late at night, when I had to get up to go to work in the morning. Be careful about that.