I’m a bit late, but here’s a quick post about the book I finished last weekend.
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez is an exploration into the lives of those residents of a certain country who feel invisible or unknown, particularly those immigrants, legal or otherwise, who have crossed the border from Spanish-speaking countries such as Mexico, Guatemala and Panama, for various reasons, political, aspirational or otherwise necessary, and are trying to forge a life in the US. The main focus of this novel is the Rivera family, Arturo, Alma and fifteen-year-old Maribel, who have come to Delaware to send their daughter to a school that has been recommended to them by a doctor back in Mexico, one that specializes in education for children who have suffered traumatic brain injuries, as Maribel has. They just want their old daughter back, the way she was before the accident, and they're willing to leave their old life behind to pursue the best education and therapy for her. They live in an apartment complex peopled with other Spanish-speaking immigrants who all have an opportunity to share their stories in short chapters sprinkled throughout the novel. The plot that connects all of the stories is one of Maribel and the neighbour’s boy, Mayor, and their severely restricted, yet budding, relationship, giving the story a Romeo and Juliet “star-crossed lovers” feel, although there are significant differences from the Shakespearean play. There’s also a bully, one of Mayor’s school mates, but not a friend. This book was really engaging to begin with and I was quite enjoying it, but somehow by the end, I felt a bit let down, although I’m not sure why. While these stories need to be told and we need to hear them, the overall impression I was left with was that this novel managed to be both heavy-handed and yet at the same time hollow. Maybe it’s because there were too many stories to follow and slot into the puzzle, leaving this reader feeling like she never really got to know any of the characters or stories deeply. It’s worth reading for sure, and I hope this post doesn’t discourage you from giving it a try, but I just found it too disjointed. I wish the novel had focused more exclusively on Maribel and Mayor, their families and the situation with the bully.
That’s all for tonight. Happy Reading!!
Bye for now... Julie