Tomasa lives in Guatemala, where she and her family have been uneasily monitoring the soldiers that have arrived in their village. Then Tomasa’s mother starts speaking her mind a little too forcefully and is forced to flee with her eldest son, Carlos, leaving Tomasa, Manuelito, and baby Maria with their father and grandmother. Soon enough, however, the rest of the family is also driven away, leaving the village just ahead of a massacre. The fragmented family hopes desperately to rejoin their relatives in America, but the journey across the border is a long and painful one.
Tomasa’s story is a powerful one. There were many journeys in the book. In addition to the obvious physical journey the family takes, there is also Manuelito’s struggle with his anger and betrayal at his mother’s leaving him behind when she fled the country with Carlos. Baby Maria slowly grows older. Stories told by the father help to bridge an emotional gap to greater insight for the children.
The characterizations are strong. Tomasa’s grief at being separated from her mother, and about her grandmother’s death, are real, as is Manuelito’s anger.
Although this is a book for children, be aware that there are a lot of weighty issues: death, fear, corrupt governments, murder. All of these are handled in a manner that older children will be able to process and understand, however.