One couple came to American to give their child a chance at a special school that promised to heal her. Another couple came to escape the devastation of war in their home country. Still others came to find a better life, to escape hardship and pain. What they found was a country that offered grand possibilities and seemingly insurmountable challenges. As they come together in a small apartment building in Delaware, these individuals and families share their stories and struggles amid a blossoming young love.
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez opens up the world of immigration in America from the point of view of the immigrants. There is much discourse on this topic, especially during an election cycle, but there's very little chance to see the situation from the view of those living in it every day. Henriquez tries to bring that view into the open through a wide range of characters. We mostly hear from Alma and Mayor, but many other characters share their point of view as well.
This novel brought to light many challenges that I hadn't thought of, and prompted an excellent discussion in my book club. It was hard, though, to completely relate to some of the situations the characters in this novel faced, particularly since my entire book club is made up of affluent white women! As an outsider observing these characters and their decisions, it is easy to fall back on my attitude that a little more planning and thinking before acting would have made life a lot easier in some cases. I do think this was more limited to certain characters, like Alma, who drove me crazy.
I would highly recommend The Book of Unknown Americans to book clubs as long as you're up for a potentially controversial discussion.
My rating: 3/5
This review was written based on a copy of The Book of Unknown Americans that I borrowed from a friend.