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Colombian novelist Franco offers a nuanced account of the immigration experience in this story of an illegal immigrant lost in the bowels of New York City.

Marlon is living with his parents in Medellín, working as a sales clerk and trying to get into university, when his passionately unhappy girlfriend Reina seduces him into emigrating to the United States with her. When their visas do not come through, their travel agent arranges illegal passage through Mexico. Reina’s determination frightens Marlon, but he is so besotted that he follows along. They arrive in New York without papers or money, and no one answers at the telephone number Reina had been given. Frustrated and scared, Marlon leaves the room they’ve rented to smoke a cigarette outside, but, after an unfortunate run-in with the police, he ends up lost, unable to find his way back to where he left Reina. After a period of hellish homelessness, he gravitates to a Colombian restaurant in Queens, where he is taken in, given food, shelter, eventually a job. His life in America begins. It is a hand-to-mouth existence, but he makes friends, learns English, even meets a nice girl. Still, he cannot give up his search for Reina. He calls Medellín regularly, but no one has heard from her. Eventually, he runs into a woman who was brought across the border with Reina and Marlon, and she finds Reina’s new address in Miami for him. As Marlon travels on a bus from New York to Miami, he recalls in bits and pieces his life in Medellín, his love affair with Reina and his struggles in Queens. Franco combines a sharp eye for the larger socio-economic panorama of life in the U.S. and in Colombia with infectious affection for his characters.

High-octane storytelling—sad and funny and real.

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 2006
ISBN: 0-374-22977-5
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15th, 2005


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