1. The Pew Hispanic Center estimates that in 2012 there were over 11 million unauthorized immigrants in the United States. Are you aware of these immigrants in your community? Had you considered their paths before reading this book? How and when did your own family come to the United States?
  2. Does it surprise you to learn that so many women and children take this dangerous odyssey to the United States? Do their motivations make sense to you? Might it be fair to call this book Lourdes’ Journey as well?
  3. Why is this Enrique’s story and not Belky’s? How do Enrique and Belky’s lives diverge after their mother leaves?
  4. During Enrique’s travels, acts of kindness come from both likely and unlikely places. Which particularly stood out to you?
  5. Nazario writes that for migrant children, finding their mothers “becomes the quest for the Holy Grail”? What does Enrique expect from his mother once he has found her? How does the reunion between Enrique and Lourdes compare to their expectations? To your own expectations?
  6. What facets of Enrique’s life influence his resentment toward Lourdes after he arrives in North Carolina? How does his addiction alter their relationship? Is he in some ways a typical teenager coming into his young adulthood?
  7. Enrique taunts his mother by telling her that a true mother isn’t the person who carries you in her womb but is the person who raises and nurtures you. Do you agree or disagree? Do the biological mother’s sacrifices make a difference?
  8. Upton Sinclair said that he “aimed for America’s heart and hit its stomach” with The Jungle, his classic work of American investigative journalism. What actions does Sonia Nazario wish to inspire in her readers?
  9. What do immigration observers mean when they say the United States has a “schizophrenic immigration policy”?
  10. Why might immigrants feel as if their identity is threatened when they move to a new place? Why might residents feel as if their identity is threatened when immigrants move into their community?
  11. What motivates Enrique to stay in the United States? What things make him wish to return to Honduras?
  12. Immigrants often come to the United States with hope for a better life. What do you think defines a “better life”? What chance do Enrique’s children have for one?

Additional questions for discussion: