Review: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez

book of unknown americans

Here’s the description from

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.

I have to admit, this wasn’t really on my radar.  I’d read reviews, sort of knew what it was about, but it just didn’t strike any interest in me.  Then one day I was sitting at work with nothing to do (we had a period of time with NO work) and was browsing the Overdrive app on my phone, and happened upon it.  I was like “why not.  I’ve got 8 hours to kill..”  And I finished it in no time.

What a fantastic, sad, but also hopeful story.  I love that it’s told through so many different perspectives, because each character’s narration gives flavor to the overall story.  I wasn’t expecting it to be so deep or touching.  I have no idea why this didn’t seem interesting to me.  But as soon as I started reading the first page I was drawn in.

Maribel and her family really struck a chord with me.  They are trying to get help for her after an accident that’s left her with brain damage.  Her parents have a good life in Mexico, her father owns his own construction company.  But they give all of that up to live in poverty in the United States, all so that their child can go to the best school for her injuries.

I can’t say enough about this book.  I’m hoping to get one of my book clubs to read it because there is SO much to talk about.

Have you read The Book of Unknown Americans?  What did you think?

Title: The Book of Unknown Americans
Author: Cristina Henriquez
Date of Publication: 2014
Genre: Fiction
Source: Overdrive


About Kelly

Hi! My name’s Kelly. I’m a twenty-something gal from Buffalo, NY. Mom to a little dog named Peabody and a slightly evil cat named Archie. Engaged to the best dude ever. I love books and craft beer! I also love all things France and francophone and have a degree in French Language and Literature from Buffalo State College. My blog used to be called Kelly’s France Blog, but I finally decided it needed a change because I wasn’t posting about French things nearly as often as I used to! You can still see all my imported posts on A Book and a Beer, or you can visit my original blog at
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