When we meet Lydia and Luca, they are hiding in a bathtub, escaping from the horrific violence that will change their lives. Lydia is a bookstore owner in Acapulco; Luca is her son. Her husband, a journalist, has offended the head of the new cartel in town by writing a profile, and so their entire family of 18 is slaughtered at a quinceanera celebration at Lydia’s mother’s house.

Lydia and Luca run, and it is soon clear that the only way to run is north. There is a connection between Lydia and the cartel jefe, revealed later, which deepens the story. The migrant trail through Mexico is full of danger, unexpected kindness, and redemption. Migrants ride the top of northbound trains, sometimes jumping on as the train is moving. There are migrant shelters along the route that provide aid, but are also full of peril, especially for Lydia who is on the run, and for the young girls that she and Luca befriend and travel with.

And finally, there is the drama of the border crossing itself, guided by an expensive coyote. I am aware of the controversy surrounding this book, but I was completely engrossed in the story as it unfolds. It is unforgettable.