Enrique and Lourdes continue to argue. He blames his mother for leaving him and his sister Belky (and for leaving Belky with relatives who gave him a more stable life than what he experienced), while Lourdes believes that she did what was best for her children. Enrique tells her that his true mother is his grandmother Maria Marcos, who raised him in Honduras. Lourdes is devastated that he does not acknowledge the sacrifices she made, and blames him for spending the money she sent him in Honduras on drugs.
Enrique and Lourdes’s relationship is full of complex and contradictory emotions that they have repressed for years of separation. Here those long-simmering feelings burst to the surface as both finally express themselves.
As Enrique and Lourdes become more estranged, Enrique turns to alcohol to ease the tension and starts to smoke marijuana. He spends his money on women and drink, instead of sending it home to support Maria Isabel and Jasmin. He speaks to Maria Isabel once a week. She lives with Enrique’s family, and tells him that she faces constant criticism from his grandmother, sister, and aunts about how she is raising Jasmin and for spending some of the money he sends her to buy medicine for her own mother. Having lived in poverty her whole life, Maria thinks she should be able to provide some support for her mother and to occasionally buy something for herself. Tensions between Maria Isabel and Enrique’s family continues to rise.
Enrique does not know how to deal with his problems with Lourdes and instead shies away from them. His relationship with Maria Isabel too is strained, because he cannot control what is happening back at home. Here the reader sees the long-term and immediate results of the separation of families.
Enrique sinks deeper into addiction and begins to huff paint thinner. He gets a speeding ticket, and ends up having to pay more than a thousand dollars in court fines. He stops saving much money and calls Maria Isabel less frequently, even though he still tells her that he wants her to join him. Lourdes begins to notice that Enrique is high often and catches him with the paint thinner. She threatens to throw him out. Enrique decides to stop huffing paint thinner, though he believes he does so more because of the headaches it gives him than because he wants to listen to his mother.
Enrique's drug addiction is the way that he escapes his problems. Of course, it is obvious to the reader that such addictions don’t solve anything. But for the addicted, driven to drugs by pain and poverty, escaping addiction is no easy task. Although he is angry with his mother, her words still carry weight to him, as he listens to her and heeds her advice to quit drugs (even if he tells himself he is doing it for other reasons).
In Honduras, Maria Isabel decides to move from her house where she lives with Enrique's family and back into her mother's home. They live in a rundown hut in a poor part of an area called Los Tubos. Maria Isabel gets a job at a mall downtown, and she is able to make money to provide for her daughter. Jasmin gains weight and seems healthier under the care of her grandmother. On her second birthday, Jasmin speaks with Enrique for the first time over the phone.
Despite their impoverished living conditions, Maria Isabel is able to improve her family's lives by finding a good job. With the help of her mother , she is able to work and raise her child at the same time. Though her father is absent, her daughter has a relatively comfortable and happy life.
Enrique has been in the U.S. for two and a half years. Arguments with his mother continue. He wants to stop drinking and wasting his money, so that he does not have to live apart from his daughter and she does not have to live in poverty and feeling abandoned by a parent. He wants to bring his family together. He starts to take better care of himself, and starts to work seven days a week. He hopes to earn enough to bring Maria Isabel to the country next year, and then for the two of them to quickly save enough to bring Jasmin afterward.
Although Enrique has built a life in the United States, he realizes it is not without flaws. To attain his goal of having a family in the U.S., he must be disciplined and focused. He will not be able to bring them here without saving money, and he transforms his behavior in order to do so.
Mirian, Lourdes' sister, is out of work and cannot afford to raise her children in Honduras. She decides to come to the United States—leaving her children behind—to live with Lourdes. As Mirian says goodbye to her children, Belky watches and understands the hard decision that her own mother had to make. When Mirian moves in, Enrique is frustrated by how crowded it is in his mother’s apartment and decides to move into his own trailer to have more space. This means he has to pay rent in addition to paying for car insurance, food, cell phone, etc. He has less money to send to Honduras, and becomes distant, calling Maria Isabel less often.
Mirian's move is yet another layer of this splitting of this large family. Her decision, like Lourdes', is driven by financial circumstances and the realization that only by leaving can she support her family. Meanwhile, Maria Isabel's growing distance from Enrique is an indication of what can happen to a broken family.
Meanwhile, in Honduras, Jasmin grows more and more attached to her mother and cries even when she goes off to work. Though her relatives think she should go to the United States to find work, and a recent hurricane has harmed the economy and worsened unemployment, Maria Isabel now cannot imagine going to the United States. She knows that joining Enrique would mean that Jasmin would have a better chance of growing up with both of her parents, but she is reluctant to leave her daughter as a young girl.
While Enrique yearns to have his family with him, Maria Isabel develops a special bond with Jasmin that makes her situation even more complicated. As she grows closer to her child, their separation from Enrique grows wider, but Jasmin and Maria Isabel's love grows deeper. It becomes harder to decide what move would be best for her family.
Lourdes and the family move to Florida in search of better work. There, the men get painting jobs and the women work as maids. Lourdes begins to enjoy her life, spending time with her boyfriend and her daughter Diana. However, Enrique doesn’t like this new situation and soon moves back to North Carolina to work with his friends there. When he is away from Lourdes, though, he begins to miss her and to understand the difficulties she has faced and the choices she made. Though his resentment is not entirely gone, he tells her that he loves her, and decides to return to Florida to be with her.
A second separation leads Enrique to understand and empathize with his mother more than he did when they were together. He also realizes how much he needs her. He had to let out his feelings of sadness and anger before being able to fully express his love for her. There is no entirely happy ending here – the hurt of abandonment retains – but it seems like Enrique is finally ready to move past that pain and look into the future. Enrique’s journey was not just the physical journey from Honduras to the US, but also this journey to face, accept, and move on from the pain of abandonment.
By the spring of 2004, Enrique has been away from Honduras for four years and he has not been able to speak to Maria Isabel in four months. However, he has been saving money assiduously, and finally saves enough to afford a smuggler. He calls Maria Isabel and asks her to make a decision about coming to the United States. After hesitating for some time to make a choice, Maria Isabel decides that leaving will be the best for Jasmin in the long term. Enrique sets up a smuggler for her. The day she leaves, like Lourdes, she says goodbye to her daughter but cannot bring herself to tell her daughter where she is going and that she won’t be coming home.
Now, three mothers have had to leave their children within one family. The pain of separation is equally hard in every case. Though the decision is made for the best, it is nonetheless impossible to say goodbye. The way that Maria Isabel’s departure from Jasmin mirrors Lourdes’s departure from Enrique reinforces that abandonment is a cycle, that one abandonment leads to another, and that the same economic forces that forced Lourdes’s decision force Maria Isabel’s too.