Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Immigrant Tale Poignant, Thoughtful

(Image from Barnes & Noble)

"We're the unknown Americans, the ones no one even wants to know, because they've been told they're supposed to be scared of us and because maybe if they did take the time to get to know us, they might realize that we're not that bad, maybe even that we're a lot like them.  And who would they hate then?" (237)

After falling off a ladder in her native Mexico, 15-year-old Maribel Rivera is left with a traumatic brain injury that changes everything for her and her family.  Desperate to get their daughter the medical care she needs, the Riveras start driving across the border.  They end up in Delaware, where Arturo finds work at a nearby mushroom farm and Alma tries to make sense of a new language and culture.  When beautiful, vulnerable Maribel catches the eye of Mayor Toro—a bullied Panamanian-American high schooler who lives in their apartment building—the Riveras worry about their budding romance.  Mayor only wants to prove to their parents that his intentions toward Maribel are honorable, but when he unwittingly causes a panic in their neighborhood, Mayor sets in motion a chain of events that will have terrible, tragic consequences.

The Book of Unknown Americans, a slim but poignant novel by Cristina Henriquez, takes a sharp and affecting look at what it means to be an immigrant in The United States.  While it doesn't offer a lot in the way of plot, the story features strong prose, interesting characters, and enough conflict to keep the tale chugging along.  While the novel is definitely thought-provoking, it's also sad and depressing.  Overall, I didn't love The Book of Unknown Americans.  I didn't dislike it either.  In the end, I just feel ambivalent about what turned out to be only a so-so read.  

(Readalikes:  Hm, I can't think of anything.  Can you?)

Grade:


If this were a movie, it would be rated:


for strong language, violence, and sexual content

To the FTC, with love:  Another library fine find

     

8 comments:

  1. It sounds very depressing indeed. I’m not sure I’d seek it out but at least it wasn’t awful.

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  2. Oh, I really liked this one and thought it told an important story. But, that's the beauty of literature--it's something different to each one of us.

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  3. Sorry this one wasn't better. I've run into a lot of so-so reads this year, too.

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  4. I have seen this one around for so long. Not sure if it sounds worth picking up.

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  5. This does sound really sad.

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  6. I think it might be one I'll keep on my list, but maybe not a good choice for me right now. It's been very popular in my area of the world - not surprising. LOL

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  7. I’ve seen this book on lists, but I didn’t know much about it. Thanks for the review! I read a lot of depressing immigrant stories, so I’d probably like it.

    Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  8. I could kind of tell this would be a sad one based on a boy catching the eye of a girl with a traumatic brain injury. At least I think I read that right. If so, I can only imagine the worst.

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