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The Book of Unknown Americans: A Novel | [Cristina Henríquez]

The Book of Unknown Americans: A Novel

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.
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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

What the Critics Say

“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)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (91 )
5 star
 (33)
4 star
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Overall
4.0 (79 )
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3 star
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2 star
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1 star
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Story
4.4 (80 )
5 star
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4 star
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3 star
 (8)
2 star
 (3)
1 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Beth Anne Philadelphia, PA, United States 07-06-14
    Beth Anne Philadelphia, PA, United States 07-06-14 Member Since 2012

    i like to read. i like to listen.

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "interesting view into the immigrant experience"

    this was a really interesting book, giving some insight into the immigrant experience in America today. told by different characters, it mostly telling the story of two familes (one from Panama, one from Mexico) and their children's doomed love affair.

    i think it was tragic and cute and sad and sometimes nerve wracking. a well written and quick view into the experiences of Spanish speaking immigrants and the challenges they face when coming to America. i liked it and can see why it's getting all the praise it has.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Kimberly 11-16-14
    Kimberly 11-16-14
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    "Teen Lit"
    This book wasn’t for you, but who do you think might enjoy it more?

    This book should be considered teen lit. I'm notably under impressed and under engaged.


    What was most disappointing about Cristina Henríquez’s story?

    Lack of depth


    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Audiofire Ohio 01-20-15
    Audiofire Ohio 01-20-15
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    "A painful and beautiful story."

    Narration was great. The story was told well and I loved each of the characters.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer PARIS, TX, United States 01-04-15
    Amazon Customer PARIS, TX, United States 01-04-15 Member Since 2008

    Lawyer, reader, writer, performer. Just love listening to books and talking about it!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "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."

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    E. Smiltneck Escanaba, Michigan, USA 01-03-15
    E. Smiltneck Escanaba, Michigan, USA 01-03-15 Member Since 2012
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    "Most touching book I've read in a long time!"

    This book is incredible. I just finished a class on the history and culture of Latin America, and this book covered all of it in a romantic, heart-breaking, beautiful way...and the voices of the many performers reflected the multicultural voices of the characters perfectly. I give this book a 10 in every possible way.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Wajid Hussein Chicago, IL 12-30-14
    Wajid Hussein Chicago, IL 12-30-14
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    "five stars"
    Would you consider the audio edition of The Book of Unknown Americans to be better than the print version?

    No both were excellent but most certainly the audiobook definitely enhanced the novel greatly.


    What did you like best about this story?

    I liked everything except the part about Maribel and Mayor being too much of sexually oriented romance rather than a real romance between teenagers. I guess the author tried to make it catch up with today's time!


    What does Various bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

    Emotions were keys the narrator for Alma did an excellent job with that.


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

    None really, they all are so unique in a way. Besides they either too young or too old for me.


    Any additional comments?

    Thank you for this beautiful narration, I have appreciated every moments and sceneries. I rarely rate a book 5 stars but this one truly deserved all its stars.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Debra New York, NY, United States 09-22-14
    Debra New York, NY, United States 09-22-14 Member Since 2009
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    "The immigrant experience brought to life"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    Yes. I found it to be a very moving--sometimes heartbreaking--story and I loved the narration by different actors. That really brought the book to life for me. I finished it a couple of days ago but keep thinking about it.


    What did you like best about this story?

    The various perspectives of the different characters


    Which scene was your favorite?

    I loved the parts of the book that were narrated by Mayor. He was such a kind hearted, loving boy, yet his parents favored his brother and often misunderstood his (admirable) motives.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    The last few chapters had me weeping, but I don't want to spoil the story so I won't elaborate further.


    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Joshua Sterling, VA, United States 08-16-14
    Joshua Sterling, VA, United States 08-16-14 Member Since 2013
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    "How We Should Look At Our Role With Our Neighbors"
    Would you recommend this audiobook to a friend? If so, why?

    This book I would recommend because there are too many ways this book interacts directly with my local community. Also the bigger international perspective is presented well here.


    Which character – as performed by Various – was your favorite?

    Each character is distinct. It's hard to say.


    Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

    The end really made me tear up. There are parts here where the adolescent characters represent feelings and ideas their age deals with really well.


    Any additional comments?

    Give a shot to those around you who are probably going further than you have ever understood to struggle for a better life.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Grace 08-13-14
    Grace 08-13-14
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    "Well worth reading !"

    Well written. Loved this book; loved the several narrators for the different characters. Spanish immigrants from from several western hemisphere countries come to Wilmington, Delaware and their stories unfold. Their dreams, feelings, goals were like anyone's so that ethnicity and education seemed irrelevant. I could "see" and feel their challenges of being immigrants,their hesitations and questions as they learned about a new country and culture, their successes & failures & frustrations & love & anger & despair. All of this is wrapped in the stories of 2 families who meet in their housing complex, of the son, Mayor, who befriend's the other family's teenage daughter who suffered brain damage after an accident, of the paths their lives take as half truths, events untold, and miscommunications lead to innocent and unintended outcomes.
    The author includes immigrants from several Spanish speaking countries-- some for only a chapter -- as a way to share the differences in origins and what it is like to be looked at "as all the same," with, in this case, Americans not trying to get to know and see each person as an individual. Personally, it put a possible identity to the person who delivers our newspaper every morning of the year. This is Maribel's story, too -- of her parents' love and concern since the accident that handicaps their seeing her as she now is and can be; of Mayor's acceptance and caring for who she is now, and the growth that this relationship fosters. Everyone gains insight, but not without cost.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Phyllis 07-20-14
    Phyllis 07-20-14 Member Since 2014
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    "Read this book"
    Would you listen to The Book of Unknown Americans again? Why?

    This book is so well done and brings the current deportation situation into a whole new light. Very well written


    What did you like best about this story?

    interesting character stories about new transplants and how difficult it can be to assimilate into a new country.


    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
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