I could not wait to read La travesía de Enrique by Sonia Nazario (Enrique's Journey) and quickly ordered it from Amazon the first time I saw it. However, once I started reading it it drug on and on. After a while I found myself skimming in order to get through it. I was captivated with the author's thorough research and method (she researched for five years including retracing Enrique's steps of travelling undocumented from Hondurous to the United States even though it was very dangerous). It reminded me of the same sense of awe I felt after reading A Hope in the Unseen (a book that I have to reread someday) and then reading the author's note at the end. Yet, the book did not meet up to my overall expectations.
At first glance I was turned off from the book because it was bogged down with details. I would have preferred that Enrique's life represented one scenario rather than mixing in random details of others' lives. Yet, I can see how the author wanted to include show glimpses of different people and to support what she observed from Enrique, especially after so much time went into the research.
When Enrique finally reunited with his mother I was momentarily gripped with the book once again, and it maintained my interest while it narrated alternatively between Honduras and the United States. All the while there was another nagging reason why the book frustrated me. I realize that it is clearly a personal reason and is just that the book did not match my expectations. I have a niece and nephew who had to stay behind in Mexico while their parents were in the United States working. I know many people who have been or are still living under similar circumstances (except in Mexico). I was excited to see a book that would illustrate the huge conflict parents and children face when they are separated for economic reasons. I wanted the story to show overall triumph of the family working through the difficult situation. As a teacher, I wanted the book to be an inspirational story for immigrant students. That sense of solace never came.
With the absence of his mother Enrique eventually makes unwise decisions. He starts drinking heavily and using drugs. He always blames all of his problems on his mother. When he is once again with his mother he has a momentary euphoria before he starts to turn back to alcohol and drugs. In addition he always argues with his mom...and she argues back. To make matters worse he finds out he left his girlfriend in Honduras pregnant. While he criticizes his mom for abandoning him, he is continuing the same cycle with his daughter. Worse, he spends copius amounts of money on his vices rather than to work toward reuniting his family. In the end of the book his girlfriend ends up coming to the United States leaving their daughter without either parent. Of course their intention is that they will work hard and go back soon, but I would not be surprised if they both stay. If it is hard enough for parents who come to the US from Mexico, it would be even more difficult for those from Central America who have to cross more countries undocumented in order to return to the US. Enrique had already made indications that he wanted his girlfriend to go there because he is used to the comfortable lifestyle in the United States. Worst of all the mom does not even say goodbye to her daughter. She leaves the car at the station without even hugging her or anything. She does not think she is old enough to explain to her where she is going, so she just does not even try.
I know this is a true story, and it represents HIS story. I should just accept it for what it is. However, I was left with a sense of lacking since it did not end up being as I expected - to represent my niece and nephew's situation (while very difficult their family did not disentigrate) and to be inspirational for my students (like Francisco Jiménez's books). It did not necessarily have to have a happy ending, but I wanted to see some growth and ownership in Enrique's decisions. At least by the end of the book he was working to free himself of addictions.