Monday, 19 May 2014

Review: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

A dazzling, heartbreaking page-turner destined for breakout status: a novel that gives voice to millions of Americans as it tells the story of the love between a Panamanian boy and a Mexican girl: teenagers living in an apartment block of immigrant families like their own.

After their daughter Maribel suffers a near-fatal accident, the Riveras leave México and come to America. But upon settling at Redwood Apartments, a two-story cinderblock complex just off a highway in Delaware, they discover that Maribel's recovery-the piece of the American Dream on which they've pinned all their hopes-will not be easy. Every task seems to confront them with language, racial, and cultural obstacles. At Redwood also lives Mayor Toro, a high school sophomore whose family arrived from Panamà fifteen years ago. Mayor sees in Maribel something others do not: that beyond her lovely face, and beneath the damage she's sustained, is a gentle, funny, and wise spirit. But as the two grow closer, violence casts a shadow over all their futures in America. Peopled with deeply sympathetic characters, this poignant yet unsentimental tale of young love tells a riveting story of unflinching honesty and humanity that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be an American. An instant classic is born.

Hardcover, 304 pages
Expected publication: June 3rd 2014 by Knopf
Terri's Thoughts:
I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher Knopf via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.  The expected publication date is June 3, 2014.
This story centralized around a community of immigrants to America who all lived in the same apartment complex.  The story explores the reason each character had for re-locating from their country of origin in search of something better and the outcome of their decision to move.  Sometimes the grass is not always greener on the other side. One could easily discuss for hours the trials and tribulations of immigration based on the stories told in these pages which I believe would make this novel a good pick for a book club.
The main story of Maribel and Mayor is a very touching one.  Two people who do not fit in for various reasons and find each other.  It is not a typical love story however a truly powerful on in my opinion.
At the end of the day this story is about people who are looking for something better for themselves and their families.  It touches on the human side of immigration which we do not see when debating the political views of it. The search for something better is not always the answer you think it will be.  To sum it up I will take a quote from the book that stuck with me
"Maybe it's the instinct of every immigrant. born of necessity or longing:  Someplace else will be better than here.  And the condition:  If only I can get to that place"    

A good read with some powerful insight.

About the Author

Cristina Henríquez is the author of the novel The World in Half, and of a short story collection entitled Come Together, Fall Apart. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, Ploughshares, and elsewhere, and she was featured in Virginia Quarterly Review as one of “Fiction's New Luminaries.” She is a graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop and the recipient of an Alfredo Cisneros Del Moral Foundation Award. She lives in Chicago.

Twitter:   crishenriquez

1 comment:

  1. This one sounds like a moving read-adding it to my TBR list :)