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The Book of Unknown Americans Paperback – March 3, 2015
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An Amazon Best Book of the Month, June 2014: Cristina Henríquez’s powerful novel The Book of Unknown Americans captures readers with the quiet beauty of her characters and their profoundly wrought experiences as immigrants in America. The story takes place in a run-down apartment building in Delaware, home to nine families who arrived in the States from various South and Central American countries, each looking to better the lives of the next generation. In alternating chapters, these men and women share stories of how their adopted country has left its mark on them, for better and worse. The close bond that develops between the Rivera and Toro families drives the novel forward, particularly the relationship between their children Mayor and Maribel, as closely held secrets and feelings of guilt, love, hope, and despair are unpacked with warmth and compassion. With her cast of “unknown Americans,” Henriquez has crafted a novel that is inspiring, tragic, brave, and above all, unforgettable. --Seira Wilson--This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
*Starred Review* On a cold, bewildering night, the Riveras, who have just left their happy lives in Mexico, are dropped off at a dilapidated apartment building on the western edge of Delaware. Arturo has given up his thriving construction company to labor in a dark, grimy indoor mushroom farm, while his wife, Alma, lonely and afraid, with no English and little money, worries incessantly about their beautiful 15-year-old daughter, Maribel. She has suffered a traumatic brain injury, and her parents have sacrificed everything to send her to a special school. Their building turns out to be a sanctuary for Central and Latin American immigrants, and as the Riveras’ dramatic tale unfolds, Henríquez brings their generous neighbors forward to tell the compelling stories of why and how they left Venezuela, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Colombia, Mexico, Panama, and Paraguay. As one man says, “We are the unknown Americans,” those who are feared and hated. As Maribel opens up to Mayor, the infatuated boy next-door who is relentlessly bullied by his father and his classmates, terror of the unknown becomes a tragic force. Each scene, voice, misunderstanding, and alliance is beautifully realized and brimming with feeling in the acclaimed Henríquez’s (The World in Half, 2009) compassionately imagined, gently comedic, and profoundly wrenching novel of big dreams and crushing reality, courageous love and unfathomable heartbreak. --Donna Seaman --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top customer reviews
I was hoping that this novel would illuminate how immigrants from Panama, Costa Rica, Nicuragua and Mexico differ from Americans in their thinking and world-view. Unfortunately, I felt that Alma Rivera, one of the protagonists, sounded too American, even though she only arrived in the U.S. from Mexico at the beginning of the story. The sentences describing her time in the U.S. also seemed too calm and she herself seemed too free of guilt, considering the circumstances that drove her to transplant her family to another country at much cost. Perhaps my expectations of this book could not have been met.
Overall, this was an enjoyable read.