Moving between the American South and Mexico, these stories explore how immigrant and native characters are shaped by absent family and geography. A Chilanga teen wins a trip to Miami to film a reality show about family while pining for the American brother she's never met. A Louisiana carpenter tends to his drug-addicted son while rebuilding his house after a slew of hurricanes. A New Orleans ne'er-do-well opens a Catholic-themed bar in the wake of his devout mother's death. A village girl from Chiapas baptizes her infant on a trek toward the U.S. border.
In the collection's second half, we follow a Veracruzan-born drifter, Manuel, and his estranged American son, Tommy. Over decades, they negotiate separate nations and personal tragicomedies on their journeys from innocence to experience. As Manuel participates in student protests in Mexico City in 1968, he drops out to pursue his art. In the 1970s, he immigrates to Louisiana, but soon leaves his wife and infant son behind after his art shop fails. Meanwhile, Tommy grows up in 1980s Louisiana, sometimes escaping his mother's watchful eye to play basketball at a park filled with the threat of violence. In college, he seeks acceptance from teammates by writing their term papers. Years later, as Manuel nears death and Tommy reaches middle age, they reconnect, embarking on a mission to jointly interview a former riot policeman about his military days; in the process, father and son discover what it has meant to carry each other's stories and memories from afar.