A stunning and timely novel about a Mexican-American family in Brownsville, Texas, that reluctantly becomes involved in smuggling immigrants into the United States.
From a distance, the towns along the U.S.-Mexican border have dangerous reputations--on one side, drug cartels; on the other, zealous border patrol agents--and Brownsville is no different. But to twelve-year-old Orly, it's simply where his godmother Nina lives--and where he is being forced to stay the summer after his mother's sudden death.
For Nina, Brownsville is where she grew up, where she lost her first and only love, and where she stayed as her relatives moved away and her neighborhood deteriorated. It's the place where she has buried all her secrets--and now she has another: she's providing refuge for a young immigrant boy named Daniel, for whom traveling to America has meant trading one set of dangers for another.
Separated from the violent human traffickers who brought him across the border and pursued by the authorities, Daniel must stay completely hidden. But Orly's arrival threatens to put them all at risk of exposure.
Tackling the crisis of U.S. immigration policy from a deeply human angle, Where We Come From explores through an intimate lens the ways that family history shapes us, how secrets can burden us, and how finding compassion and understanding for others can ultimately set us free.
The author of the collection Brownsville returns to that Texas border town for this thoughtful and quietly suspenseful novel. Retired single schoolteacher Nina lives with and cares for her crabby, bedbound mother. She is looking forward to spending a few summer weeks with her 12-year-old godson, Orly, whose advertising executive father, Nina's nephew, lives in Houston, and whose mother recently died of an aneurysm. Meanwhile, a few months before Orly's visit, Nina has gotten in over her head by providing secret housing for undocumented immigrants in the rental house behind her mother's. When Orly arrives, one boy, 12-year-old Daniel, is hiding there. Despite Nina's efforts, Orly discovers Daniel's existence, and the two form a tentative bond, in the process putting Nina's extended family in danger. While keeping the focus on family dynamics and the characters' internal struggles, Casares frequently, and often heartbreakingly, sets this domestic story in a wider context by stepping back to investigate the stories of people with whom the main characters interact only tangentially (a waiter who provides room service for Orly's father in San Francisco; the gardener who cleans the gutters at Orly's house in Houston). With understated grace and without sermonizing, Casares brilliantly depicts the psychological complexity of living halfway in one place and halfway in another. , Correction: this review originally had the incorrect title.