Enrique’s Journey is a famous book by Sonia Nazario originally published in 2006. It describes the real-life details of a 17-year-old Enrique from Honduras, who ventured into the USA via train-hopping to reunite with his mother who left there to support the family financially. A word journey in the title, as opposed to trip, suggests that the book is connected to an adventure. Indeed, the journey was, full of danger and pain.
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The prologue gives the reader a hint about the content and suggests that family splitting up is always a decision that is never made lightly. Frustration, pain, misery, and hope are the emotions often felt by women who have to part with their children to support them financially. The communication breakdown that happened between Enrique and his mother was essentially built around the understanding of this concept.
The mere reason why he ventured into a dangerous endeavor to see his mother is that he felt it was unfair of his mother to leave him alone to face the hardships of life. The full realization of the necessity of such a decision came to Enrique gradually as he discovered he is a father and he has a family of his own who needs support. Such, to a certain extent, the cyclical nature of the book seems to underline the two major ideas: the gap in mutual comprehension between generations and the relevance of family in the adequate mental development of a citizen and a human being.
The illustrated problems are indeed critical, and even classical to modern society. Classical literature such as Forsyte Saga by Galsworthy or War and Peace by Tolstoy also illustrates the same topic which makes it timeless. What unique about Enrique’s Journey is that it captures the extremes of human experience, the poverty, death, suffering, unfairness, and cruelty of the world outside a circle of family and friends.
The dichotomy between selfishness and selflessness is arguably the key narrative, which lies at the heart of the book. The former facilitates the rebellious nature of a child which, with the absence of a loving and supporting parent, leads to a life full of misery. As a person matures mentally and creates a family of one’s own, selfishness under the weight of responsibility seems to be transformed into selflessness and the desire to do everything for the people for whom one cares.
Even though the author does not deliberately and vividly contrast Enrique with people around preferring to tell a story descriptively, a negative example can be noted. All the bandits and gangsters seem to be the antagonists whose anger and frustration did not receive a proactive and, to some extent, creative drive. Instead, the life of crime engulfed them completely. Overall, the third-person narrative allows looking at the events of Enrique’s life from a critical perspective, which might have been a deliberate choice. The analysis of his experience facilitates learning important life lessons from the book.
The problem of immigration was also touched in the book. The author seems to have concentrated on the individual experience while making short situational comments about the legal and social environment which surrounded Enrique. Thus, Nazario argues that around 200,000 people are deported from the U.S. annually, which illustrates the breadth of the problem (259). These data help to understand the context of the minorities’ life and emphasizes the sacrifices and risks they take almost daily by breaking the immigration law.
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By including the statistical inserts, the author suggests that Enrique’s journey is not a unique experience and tens of thousands of people annually attempt the same route (Nazario 258). She also writes in first person demonstrating her findings of immigration, which makes a book similar to research and adds to its relevance to real-world problems. In addition, it seems to relate the book to a manifesto with a topical policy agenda for governments.
What is also important to stress is that, unlike a fictional story, Enrique’s Journey features not only the description of events but also the author’s direct intervention into the matter and its consequences. This gives the book an additional problematic angle that seems to foster an official response. It becomes evident that the author is committed to resolving the issue and writes not for evoking pity for the families of immigrants but to generate action, which is also the central merit of the book. To reinforce this, Nazario shows the impact of her actions which seems to demonstrate to the reader that anyone can volunteer and help.
All in all, the book is a topical representation of Enrique’s life experience that echoes in many families like their own and illustrates deeply rooted social and political issues. The classical conflict of generations is reinforced by notions of immigration policy and overall poverty of third-world countries, which demonstrates the need for intervention. The writer’s own involvement in the conflict depicted in the book adds a specific edge to the narrative and inspires action in readers. Such atypical structure and high relevance of the immigration agenda make the book a fine specimen of a non-fiction genre.
Nazario, Sonia. Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother. Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2007.