Enrique’s Journey depicts the true story of a Honduran boy’s journey to find his mother in America.

This book is an extension of a newspaper series on the subject for the Los Angeles Times by Sonia Nazario. There are elements of fable in it and the characters are of the type whose struggles we can identify with.The plot is gripping with its twists and turns. There is irony and pathos, and a protagonist and multiple antagonists in form of a system that works to the disadvantage of people.This work is not just an immigrant’s account of entering into a country; it touches on several universal themes alongside: familial ties, parent-child conflict, responsibility, alienation, poverty, race, redemption, forgiveness, and problems of integration into other cultures.The story is about difficult, extreme, and complex choices human beings have to make when faced by poverty and responsibilities.

It is about difficult circumstances and choices that women like Enrique's mother, Lourdes, make in order to feed their families.Illegal immigrant mothers like her have to make such desperate choices everyday in deciding whether to leave their children behind for greener pastures, or keep the family intact at the cost of perpetual poverty.Enrique is Lourdes’ son, the main character of the novel. He is a teenager, a typical one in his concerns and behavior but an untypical one in the magnanimity of what he decides to undertake i.e., trek across four countries, comprising more than 12,000 miles of perilous terrains to seek his mother, in a total of 122 days.

The desire to seek his mother is so intense that nothing will deter him. His quest for his mother can be compared with the Holy Grail, making it an epic journey. “He stands on the same porch that his mother disappeared from eleven years before. He hugs Maria Isabel and Aunt Rosa Amalia. Then he steps off” (p.

44).For a child who hasn’t seen his mother for over a decade and who has shuttled from one relative’s home to another, who has given up studies and has gotten embroiled in drugs, form him his mother’s love is a form of salvation, his only hope to set things right. He wants to get rid of his perpetual loneliness and troubles.He has no help or money and only a few paper slips bearing his mother’s address, which eventually get lost.

Despite Lourdes telling him every time she calls to be patient, Enrique fears of never seeing her ever again. He seems to be at a tough spot; having neither of his parents around and becoming a father himself at such a tender age.Enrique’s journey teaches him a lot of things; his own weaknesses and limitations, and an insight into the difficulties that his own mother faced when she made a similar journey many years ago. This is what helps in redeeming the relationship eventually.

He makes multiple failed attempts to enter the Unites States and yet sticks to his goal despite the failure, which shows his true determination.En route, he has no safety or security, not even a safe and sound place to sleep. He spends nights in cemeteries and ditches, which still provide him a secure place in comparison to the human company of violent gangs and corrupt officers. He faces starvation, sunburns and disfigurement during the course of the journey, yet he keeps at it.There are no magic carpets in this tale but a dangerous freight train, which the migrants call el ‘Tren de la Muerte’, or ‘the train of death’. The children boarding this murderous train have to be very careful as not to get catapulted or mutilated while traveling on its top, yet they see it as their only hope of making it to the other side.

In every sense, this journey is difficult and fatal.Enrique is defined by his relationships with the other characters. He feels rejected because of his own troubled relationship with his father and then his ageing grandmother.He constantly bickers and fights with the latter. He is able to find a surrogate figure briefly into his uncle, who treats him as affectionately as his own son.  But his ghastly murder leaves Enrique orphaned yet again in a sense.

He deeply loves his girlfriend Maria but is unable to make her understand the anguish that has driven him to do drugs. He is also unable to make her understand why he wants to go to all the way to the US to seek out his mother. She tries her best to console him when he recounts his nightmares to her about his mother.Perhaps, they would be able to understand the actions of each other and of their parents when their own child Jasmin would grow up.

Till then, they shuttle between the pains of growing up and responsibilities of adulthood that has come too soon.Similarly, there is residual resentment which surfaces when Enrique meets his mother and taunts her by telling her that a true mother is not the one who just gives birth but one who stays around her children to nurture them.This reunion does not guarantee a ‘happily ever after’ solution at the end, as time and distance have taken their toll, and the mother and child have to work hard on their relationship. Enrique reveals his angry and resentful side to his mother, and she is in turn saddened by his confused state. It is one the most complex feelings to describe. He feels abandoned and holds a grudge.

Lourdes hasn’t forgotten her children and is struggling to save money in order to have them all reunited. But the children are unable to understand the sacrifice she is making for them; all they want is her. Because of not having an adult’s perspective into things, they feel confused and angry by her departure and see it as a form of desertion and rejection. In contrast to Enrique, Belky adjusts better to the reality than Enrique and understands the issue and their mother’s struggle in a compassionate manner. She owes it to her age and the aunt who has brought her up.

In order to understand Lourdes’ character, one has to see the motives behind her actions: Why does she come to America leaving her children behind? Lourdes supported her family by selling tortillas and gum on the street in order to make an honest living, instead of resorting to begging or picking up garbage. When she sees the glossy life of Las Vegas on a customer's television screen, she is tempted to try her luck in America, so she could earn enough money to keep food in her children’s bellies and give them decent education.Lourdes leaves behind her children but is haunted by its consequences whenever she is feeding the children she has been hired to look after as a nanny. She cannot help but wonder who is feeding her own children and wiping their tears away.Her hard jobs of cleaning houses and caretaking allow her to send $50 home to her children each month, but she is still unable to fulfill the promise of reuniting with them soon.  Lourdes constantly worries about dying in an alien country, living as an illegal immigrant, and salvation, “I worry about dying along the way.

I know going into another country is wrong. I know God would be against this. But I hope he understands” (pp.155-156).The book also shows that assimilation into a new culture isn’t always easy.

And Enrique’s struggles continue even when he reaches the USA. Although he has been able to find work easily and appreciates the general abundance of commodities and the order and neatness around him, yet he feels that people look down upon him and considers him no better than an worm.One of the outcomes of a journey of such magnitude is the inadvertent loss of innocence. Not having a mother or a father figure around, losing his uncle to murder, all this had already caused a void in Enrique’s personality.The hardships he endures during the journey; the beatings, bribery, violence, hunger, despair, loneliness, all these have toughen him up. There are dark and depressing times in his journey, when he is in Chiapas, also the final part of the journey across the river to America, and the odds seem too much to overcome.

He endures it all, but at a price i.e., the loss of his innocence.According to Simpson and Coté (2006), “By getting inside the lives of others and carefully writing about their experiences, Sonia Nazario reveals how violence can take root in the cracks of corrupt systems and broken lives, and how choices made for good reasons can have tragic consequences” (p.138).