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Publisher's Summary

A boy and a girl who fall in love. Two families whose hopes collide with destiny. An extraordinary novel that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be American.
Arturo and Alma Rivera have lived their whole lives in Mexico. One day, their beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter, Maribel, sustains a terrible injury, one that casts doubt on whether she’ll ever be the same. And so, leaving all they have behind, the Riveras come to America with a single dream: that in this country of great opportunity and resources, Maribel can get better.
When Mayor Toro, whose family is from Panama, sees Maribel in a Dollar Tree store, it is love at first sight. It’s also the beginning of a friendship between the Rivera and Toro families, whose web of guilt and love and responsibility is at this novel’s core.
Woven into their stories are the testimonials of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Latin America. Their journeys and their voices will inspire you, surprise you, and break your heart.
Suspenseful, wry and immediate, rich in spirit and humanity, The Book of Unknown Americans is a work of rare force and originality.
©2014 Cristina Henriquez (P)2014 Random House Audio
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Critic Reviews

“A triumph of storytelling. Henríquez pulls us into the lives of her characters with such mastery that we hang on to them just as fiercely as they hang on to one another and their dreams. This passionate, powerful novel will stay with you long after you’ve turned the final page.” (Ben Fountain, author of Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful

By SydSavvy on 01-04-15

The Book of Re-Opening my Heart

I wasn't expecting much from this book, especially not a trip down memory lane. I love that it helped remind me of stories from my past. It helped me remember why I have such a heart for immigrants. It humanized the current politics and taught me things I didn't know. It was interesting to me that the setting was not Texas. I kept being surprised that Delaware was the location but I think that was a good thing as it gives a fresh look.

It was hard for me to read, because I kept waiting for the axe to drop, but in the end I couldn't put it down. The sweetest story to me was that of Alma and Arturo, the couple that moves in order to help their daughter get better from a brain injury. Theirs is just an unadulterated pure love for each other and for their daughter. There are other stories mixed in, and I actually liked this, it gave me a break from the story that I knew was going to be difficult every step of the way. The name of the book comes from one of those stories and by the time it is delivered, you know how true it is.

First time I've actually wept at the end of a book in a long, long time. I love my country but we are so screwed up.

One favorite quote, from Arturo: "I'll tell them what I love about this country."

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4 of 4 people found this review helpful

By Daryl on 03-02-15

Beautiful look at the Immigrant experience

What made the experience of listening to The Book of Unknown Americans the most enjoyable?

I loved this look into the lives of several Latin American immigrants to the United States. It is primarily about two families, with stories of friends and neighbors adding depth and complexity to their tale. Someone described it as "teen lit", but I disagree; it addresses universal themes of identity, belonging, finding home, and expectations. It can appeal to teenagers, as two of the main characters are 15-16 years old, but it is by no means strictly targeted at teenagers.

If you could take any character from The Book of Unknown Americans out to dinner, who would it be and why?

I would take Alma out to dinner. She obviously loves Maribel so much, but her love can sometimes be viewed as stifling. I would give her a big hug and tell her that Maribel may not be able to process things "normally", but she is a woman, with dreams and hopes, who just may not be able to articulate them.

Any additional comments?

This book is beautiful, with threads of hope, despair, love, and belonging. the narration is wonderful, with some narrators stronger than others.
A well worthwhile read!

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2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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