Review for Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester
In her latest book, Everyone Knows You Go Home, Natalia Sylvester explores themes of family, immigration, the American dream, and forgiveness. The story has two main narratives. The first focuses on the newlywed couple Isabel and Martin, who see the ghost of Martin’s father, Omar, on their wedding day. The narrative surrounds Martin’s family, as Isabel tries to understand what happened to Omar, and get his family to forgive him. The second narrative follows Omar and his wife, Elda, as they travel from Mexico across the border into Texas in the early 1980s. It also shows Omar and Elda in the years that follow, when they try to adjust to their new lives in the United States as undocumented immigrants.
Sylvester’s book comes at a time when immigration is more than a hot-button issue. In this novel, she shows that immigrants have many dimensions and reasons for crossing the border. In Omar and Elda’s narrative, we meet people crossing to escape abusive husbands, gang violence, familial conflict, and some who just want a better life for their children. Each member of the group traveling with Omar and Elda have a story to tell, and each comes into America with their own scars. But their story doesn’t end with them crossing the border, because, like many immigrants, trying to build a new life in America comes with its own set of challenges. We see Omar and Elda struggle with language barriers, job security, and missing the world they left behind. As a reader, you want them to succeed and are curious to see what finally shatters the illusion and causes Omar to leave his family.
The narrative that focuses on Isabel and Martin sees the broken family that Omar left behind, and we’re left to wonder how Isabel can help Omar’s ghost repair his family before it is too late. Their story circles around Dio de Los Muertos, the only day of the year that Omar can visit Isabel, and, in a dream-like way, follows Isabel’s day-to-day as she navigates the tricky and often uncertain world of undocumented immigration.
The two narratives that Sylvester weaves together show the full circle of the immigrant experience. Each member of the family longs to have a place in the world to call their own and to give their loved ones the life they deserve. This is the dream of every immigrant.
Natasha Ford lives and works in Austin as a bookseller. She enjoys reading young adult fantasy, eating tostones, and playing with her schnorkie.