Where We Come From by Oscar Cásares

Where We Come From

Oscar Cásares

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.

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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.

Advance Galley Reviews

Where We Come From brings a huge, often faceless issue home to the reader on a very personal level. Complexities and twists one might not have previously considered are brought to the story, humanizing those who are often thought of as "other" whether already on this side of the border or not. Kudos to Caseres for allowing us to peak into this world in a compassionate way. Thank you to First to Read for the digital galley. I'll miss First to Read.

I enjoyed this story about how immigration affects people on both sides of the border on a very human level. It was easy for me to imagine the anxiety that Nina had in hiding people who were crossing the border, and the anxiety of Daniel's father as he waited for word of his son. This is also a coming of age story about Orly, who is grieving the loss of his mother and confused about secrets he knows about her. The pace of the story is a little slow, but I felt that the author's ability to put a face on the current immigration situation overcame this.

3.25 stars Thank you to Penguin's First to Read and Knopf for allowing me read and review this ARC. Publishes May 21, 2019. A topic very much in the headlines today - Immigration. Although this is a fictional story it mirrors today's true to life situation. Nina caring for her elderly mother, gets roped into smuggling immigrants. Her God son befriends a young boy, who she is hiding and things spin out of control. Nina is trying to juggle the police, human traffickers, those she is hiding, her sick mother and her God son. Nina's mischief brings out secrets from her past. This is my first book by Oscar Casares. I liked the book well enough to try another from this author, but would like for it to be different subject matter.

I was excited to read this fictional account of a timely topic, and there is a kernel of a great story here. However, more than half-way through the novel it still feels as though the story hasn't started. Daniel, the illegal immigrant, isn't introduced in the beginning of the book, and is later only a shadowy figure without a name. It is only in the last third of the book that Daniel interacts with the other protagonists, Orly and Nina. I enjoyed this section of the book where Casares shows the impact of illegal immigration on the main characters. By doing so, there is finally character development and growth, and the issue of illegal immigration stops feeling abstract. Had the first two-thirds of the novel been compressed and the ending expanded, the story would have been much more impactful - there is little plot or character development until the end of the book. Instead, Casares often explores illegal immigration through minor characters who sometimes appear only for a page or two. This approach is heavy-handed - suddenly, the text shifts to italics and the immigration story of a maid or landscaper is explored in a few paragraphs. Once, this technique is used for a character not otherwise appearing in the story - one of the main characters passes a water jug blowing alongside the road and the story of its owner is shared. This technique distracts from the narrative and the main characters, and sometimes feels pretentious. Illegal immigration appears to have been well-researched and the ending of the story shows promise, but the execution of this novel is flawed.

I wasn’t crazy about this one. In fact, it’s the first First to Read book I haven’t finished. You just feel from the start that this isn’t going to end well for anyone involved. So you don’t want to attach to any of the characters.

This story offers a view of what it might be like living very near the US-Mexican border, dealing with the human trafficking scene, & just with daily life there....for Americans & those who are not Americans. The story is told from different character's perspectives & the author does a great job of conveying the real feel of the Texas environment, the hot/dry/dusty physical environment & the nervous/tense situational environment of the 'border atmosphere'....maybe especially if you're trying to hide something...? This was the 1st I've read of this author, but I think I'll look for more of his work.... I received an e-ARC from Penguin's First-To-Read Giveaway program, in return for reading it & posting my own fair/honest review.

I feel like this book was a bit of tough read, but a necessary one, considering the current climate of politics. I think more books need to be written addressing the issue of "illegal" immigration, so it becomes a topic people can rationally discuss to figure out where they really stand on the issue and not be swayed by other people's viewpoints or where their political party leans. I loved everything about this book. I liked that it had bits of dialogue and thoughts in Spanish. I liked were it was set, Brownsville, TX and Matamoros, MX, and even though I have never been there, it seemed portrayed realistically. The two main characters, Nina and Orly were very well described and written. Both were realistic and likeable. I liked the little snippets given about the immigrants that described their situations and thoughts. I especially liked the elements given to Daniel, and the other immigrants, humanizing them. I think that's what gets lost in the shuffle today: Immigrants are human beings and should be treated accordingly. I greatly enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.

Where We Come From is the wonderful new novel for Oscar Cásares. Told from multiple points of view, it tells the difficulties of immigration from being at the mercy of those that bring them over to the constant fear of being caught by authorities. And the fear that faces those who genuinely try to help the immigrants that they too may be caught. It’s thought provoking. I did not want to put it down. An absolute must read.

What a timely book! An interesting story too none the less. I appreciate the opportunity to read this book.

All the complexity of our southern border is depicted through the lens of one dysfunctional mother-daughter relationship and in turn, two boys’ unexpected friendship. Life was already complicated before an inadvertent act of kindness opens a quiet household up to a smuggling operation. The story is moving and timely. I received my copy from Penguin’s First to Read Program.

Oscar Casares is from Brownsville Texas and that town is the location of this story. Yes, right there on the Mexican border. Nina is a retired school teacher who takes care of her bed-ridden mother. Nina's maid asks for a favor. Can Nina provide safe haven for her daughter and grandchild who are illegally fleeing Mexico? Nina does and then gets in over her head. She can't seem to say no to others who need help. A young Mexican boy who stayed in Nina's home leaves, but returns after the motel in which he is staying is raided. Nina hides him behind aluminum covered windows. But her godson, Orly, who is staying with her for the summer, discovers this boy and they become friends. Very simply written and the sentences easily flow. Can't help but pull for these characters. 5 stars

Here is a very pertinent current events novel about illegal immigration into Brownsville, Texas from Mexico. It is a despairing life that legal Texas resident, Nina, lives. She is trying to take care of her elderly mother, with the help of a Mexican house cleaner just one day a week. Nina agrees to smuggle the maid’s young relative, Daniel, into her home in Brownsville. It makes a suspenseful and educational novel of Mexican culture.

This was an interesting read. I especially liked the stories told in italics of different immigrant families trying to survive.


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