Bad parenting and Hispanics working in Southern California are at the core of Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Tobar's novel.
Scott and Maureen Torres-Thompson are living the good life in Orange County, but when money problems begin to arise they reluctantly let go of most of their Mexican employees, leaving only Araceli Ramirez, their live-in maid. But tensions escalate between Scott and Maureen, culminating in a horrific argument after Maureen has their tropical forest uprooted and replaced by a desert garden costing twice what their previous gardener had earned in a year. Both husband and wife leave the house in a rage, each thinking the other will stay and take care of their three children, but while Maureen leaves with babe-in-arms Samantha, the two boys—eight and 11 years old—are left behind with the maid. Araceli does what she can to contact her employers, but for a few days they’re incommunicado. When she begins to get desperate, she takes them on a journey to find their grandfather in the heart of Los Angeles. Soon Araceli recognizes the difficulty of her quest, for she’s working from an old photograph and an outdated address. Meanwhile, Scott and Maureen return home, expecting to find their boys, and experience moments of panic and guilt when they find the house empty. They assume Araceli has kidnapped their sons, and when police get involved, the case explodes into a cause célèbre with Araceli at the center. From her point of view, she’s merely taken the best care she can of the children, but from the parents perspective she’s put them into danger by taking them into the wilds of L.A. And Scott and Maureen are extremely uncomfortable disclosing their own complicity in the situation, for they have, though unknowingly, abandoned their two sons for a four-day period.
A lively novel that examines both edgy stereotypes and uncomfortable truths.