Illegal by Bettina Restrepo
Rating: 4 of 5 Stars
I was really taken with Illegal by Bettina Restrepo. The story begins in a small town in Mexico where Nora’s dad leaves his family because work is non-existent and it’s the only way to provide for his family. Nora is devastated that Arturo, her father is leaving them behind and wants him to stay. Arturo sends any money he can back to his family, but eventually the telegrams and money stop coming.
Life at home is bad and Nora decides that she and her mother will go to the US to find her father. Leaving Mexico means they will not be able to return and most importantly they will be faced with having to leave her grandmother behind to fend for herself. The trip across the border is deadly and getting to Houston was not an easy task. Once in Houston they look for a place to stay and something to eat. Nora makes any major decisions for her and her mother and she knows that in order to get a job they will need papers. Navigating through Houston Nora meets lots of cruel people but finally finds work with a couple who own food stands. Jorge and Manuela take a liking to Nora because she reminds them of their niece who they have lost. Nora is excited to have found a job and figures that her dad has to eat and will eventually stop at the stand and they will be reunited. While working at the food stand, Nora tries to be friends with Flora but she want’s nothing to do with Nora. Flora’s brother is a drug dealer who mistreats Flora and her mother is too busy to notice. Most have written off Flora as a lost cause but Nora simply wants to be her friend. Nora makes it her mission to ask every worker who stops at her stand if they have any news of her father. She refuses to give up and dreams of the day she will be reunited with her father, but when she finally gets news about her father, her dreams are shattered. Nora looses faith in everything and her mother falls apart. Jorge and Manuela give Nora the only gift that could make her happy.
I felt I could really relate to Illegal for a number of reasons. First the story is set in Houston and I know the area quite well. I like that all the main landmarks were in the book. Also I know people who have lived Nora’s story and it reminds me of the suffering and pain they went through to get to this country. I would have liked to seen a few more Spanish words but that is just a personal preference. I can easily see this book translated to Spanish and the story have the same emotional impact.
Illegal is a touching story and can’t wait to read more from debut author Bettina Restrepo. I am very proud to say that Bettina is a Texas author and is part of The Class of 2K11. She will be stopping by for an interview March 8th.