The One with Noble Paiges: The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez


Saturday, October 18, 2014


Hello and welcome to the 5th (wow! 5 already!) Noble Paiges online book club discussion - today we're talking about THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS by Cristina Henríquez. This was a quick read - I finished in about 6 hours. Definitely a "thinker" of a book, with quite a sad ending, but, not every story is all sunshine and roses!

Synopsis: 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.

QUESTIONS (please note there are spoilers if you haven't read the book yet!):

1. Why do you think Mayor is drawn to Maribel? 
First, because of her beauty. And then when he realizes she's a little mentally handicapped, he comes to find out that they are very similar in a lot of ways. It's always fun to be around people with common interests, beliefs, and characteristics!

2. Food in the book brings up memories and helps establish community in the apartments. How does food bring people together in your life?
Whenever we have people over I always make the same two things - either Cincinnati Chili or Grandma's Chicken Curry. Cincinnati Chili is from the Taylor side of my family and Grandma's Chicken Curry is from the Warner side! Eating those meals reminds me of so many good times with my family, sitting around the dinner table, laughing. Food is such a uniting factor, some of my best memories revolve around food!

3. The characters in the book move to America for better opportunities even though leaving home is difficult. Have you ever had to deal with this in your life?
Thankfully I haven't had to leave my home in search of better opportunities, BUT, we did move to Germany which is sooooo far from home and I know how it feels to be homesick and miss family and friends so desperately. Wah wah :)

4. Did you like the other narrators points of view or did it take away from the central story of Alma's family?
I thought it was a nice break and change of pace and a good way to get to know some of the smaller characters in the book by telling their backstories every few chapters. Very clever and it was a good way for the author to tell stories from different views and use a variety of writing styles.

5. What did you think of the last chapter told from Arturo's point of view?
I thought it was a good ending, but I was hoping the last chapter would be from Maribel's point of view, we never heard her story!

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Kelsey Noble has another set of fun and thoughtful questions about THE BOOK OF UNKNOWN AMERICANS by Cristina Henríquez on her blog!

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Our next Noble Paiges book is a brand new book by Jodi Picoult called LEAVING TIME!
Synopsis: For more than a decade, Jenna Metcalf has never stopped thinking about her mother, Alice, who mysteriously disappeared in the wake of a tragic accident. Refusing to believe she was abandoned, Jenna searches for her mother regularly online and pores over the pages of Alice’s old journals. A scientist who studied grief among elephants, Alice wrote mostly of her research among the animals she loved, yet Jenna hopes the entries will provide a clue to her mother’s whereabouts. Desperate to find the truth, Jenna enlists two unlikely allies in her quest: Serenity Jones, a psychic who rose to fame finding missing persons, only to later doubt her gifts, and Virgil Stanhope, the jaded private detective who’d originally investigated Alice’s case along with the strange, possibly linked death of one of her colleagues. As the three work together to uncover what happened to Alice, they realize that in asking hard questions, they’ll have to face even harder answers. As Jenna’s memories dovetail with the events in her mother’s journals, the story races to a mesmerizing finish. A deeply moving, gripping, and intelligent page-turner, Leaving Time is Jodi Picoult at the height of her powers.

Our next Noble Paiges discussion of LEAVING TIME by Jodi Picoult will be on Saturday December 6th 2014 - between the holidays, so mark your calendars and see you then! And make sure to visit Kelsey's blog for the other half of the discussion!
Paige Taylor Evans © // Quinn Creatives DESIGN