One of our recommended books is Nobody's Pilgrims by Sergio Troncoso


Three teenagers are traveling northeast in a navy blue Ford pickup. Turi has fled his abusive family to see the beautiful New England landscape he’s always dreamed about. Arnulfo is undocumented and wants only to find someplace to work and live. Molly seeks a new life far away from her nowhere Missouri town. Turi and Arnulfo are best friends. Molly and Turi are falling in love.

But for all their innocence, violence follows the trio at every turn. The mean viejito who owns the truck wants it back. The narco who hid a deadly shipment in the truck really,

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Three teenagers are traveling northeast in a navy blue Ford pickup. Turi has fled his abusive family to see the beautiful New England landscape he’s always dreamed about. Arnulfo is undocumented and wants only to find someplace to work and live. Molly seeks a new life far away from her nowhere Missouri town. Turi and Arnulfo are best friends. Molly and Turi are falling in love.

But for all their innocence, violence follows the trio at every turn. The mean viejito who owns the truck wants it back. The narco who hid a deadly shipment in the truck really, really wants it back. And the imperturbable hitman the narco sends after the trio will kill anyone who stands in his way. Turi, Arnulfo, and Molly might outrun the carnage that’s stalking them … but they can’t elude the chaos they’re carrying, no matter how far they go.

A literary novel with the propulsion of a thriller, a genre joyride written in the prose of a master, Nobody’s Pilgrims both offers and questions the possibility of escape in America with a gritty frontera twist.

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  • Cincos Puntos Press
  • Paperback
  • May 2022
  • 288 Pages
  • 9781947627413

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About Sergio Troncoso

Sergio Troncoso is the author of Nobody's PilgrimsSergio Troncoso was born and raised in El Paso, Texas. His previous works include A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant’s Son, From this Wicked Patch of Dust, and The Last Tortilla. He often writes about the United States-Mexico border, immigrants, families and fatherhood, and crossing cultural, religious, and psychological borders. Among the numerous awards he has won are the International Latino Book Award for Best Collection of Short Stories, Kay Cattarulla Award for Best Short Story, Premio Aztlan Literary Prize, Southwest Book Award, Bronze Award for Essays from ForeWord Reviews, and the Silver and Bronze Awards for Multicultural Fiction from ForeWord Reviews. Troncoso has taught fiction and nonfiction at the Yale Writers’ Workshop in New Haven, Connecticut for many years. He has served as a judge for the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and the New Letters Literary Awards in the Essay category. His work has recently appeared in New Letters, Yale Review, Michigan Quarterly Review, Texas Monthly, and New Guard Literary Review. The son of Mexican immigrants, Troncoso grew up on the east side of El Paso in rural Ysleta. He graduated magna cum laude from Harvard College and received two graduate degrees in international relations and philosophy from Yale University. A Fulbright scholar, Troncoso was inducted into the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Alumni Hall of Fame and the Texas Institute of Letters (TIL). He currently serves as TIL President.


“A sublime, diverse cast drives this tale of looking for a safe, welcoming home.” ​Kirkus Reviews

Discussion Questions

1. Compare Turi’s pastoral, idyllic portrait of Connecticut and New England in El Paso to the reality of Connecticut once Turi, Molly, and Arnulfo arrive in New England. What do you think the author is saying about what prompts imagination and action? What do you think the author is also saying about Turi’s American Dream versus his American Reality? How can the novel be read as the practical, even dangerous struggle to achieve the American Dream? Do you have a different appreciation for an achievement when it is only a dream than after you have struggled to attain that achievement?

2. Describe the different roles that book reading and wordplay have in the novel with different characters. How does the love of reading give Turi a different view of his self and who he could be? How does the love of wordplay connect Turi and Molly in a special way that leads to their friendship? How does meeting another reader mean that somehow you trust that person a bit more than if he/she wasn’t a reader? Why? Describe Cosio Torgenson’s reaction when he finds out Turi and Molly are young readers.

3. How is Arnulfo’s American Dream different from Turi’s? Why? How do these different American Dreams cause conflict and danger for them? How does it cause them to react to certain situations differently?

4. How is Turi’s character inventive, resourceful, and alert in ways that are different from the other main characters, Molly and Arnulfo? Is Turi a natural leader? What does it take to be a leader in a group? How do you gain the trust of those around you? Describe how Turi demonstrates these qualities throughout the novel.

5. What is going on between Chucho and Eduardo as they search for Turi and Arnulfo? What is their relationship, what does Chucho want their relationship to be, and what is Eduardo’s identity (or at least the identity that Chucho thinks Eduardo hides to himself)?

6. How does the reader get a sense of Turi’s morality through his subtle actions? What are his moral values, if you had to describe them? Does he like to steal? Does he obey authority? Does he follow his worst impulses? Is he brave? How does he treat women? Where do you think Turi gets his moral compass from?

7. Describe the role of storytelling in the novel. For example, what does the recounting of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn do for Turi and Arnulfo when they are hiding from the narcos in the Mark Twain National Forest? What does Turi telling stories about his abuelita, Doña Dolores Rivero, do for Molly when they are facing the pandemic toward the end of the novel? How does storytelling help to calm you as well as help to give you hope in a difficult situation?

8. Describe how Turi sees himself and how he first sees Molly in the tackle shop in Steeleville. Why do you think Turi suddenly sees himself as “dark-skinned” outside of El Paso? How does he first see blond, blue-eyed Molly? How does this awe of Molly change over time? Why? What helps both to go beyond their preconceptions of each other?

9. Describe Turi’s views of women throughout the novel. How do these views evolve over time? Start from the woman with the big butt in the magazine page on Turi’s wheelbarrow; to his dreams about the librarian Mrs. Garcia; to his relationship with Molly. How is the author showing the progression from the awkward romantic ideals of a young boy to the practical reality of how Turi appreciates his friend Molly? How does Turi mature as an adult?

10. Describe the different moments of racism that Turi and Arnulfo face throughout the novel. With Mike (who fixes their truck) at the Mark Twain National Forest. With the couple in Danbury, Connecticut at the McDonald’s. Do you think there is more racism in places without many Mexicans or Mexican Americans when strangers meet people like Turi and Arnulfo? How do the main characters, including Molly, react differently to this racism? Why?

11. Why do you think Molly decides to join Turi and Arnulfo? How has she come to trust them so quickly? How is this related to how Turi and Arnulfo meet at the chicken farm in Ysleta and Turi decides to join him in the blue Ford pickup on the fly? Why is it that some young people have this trusting nature, especially when meeting new friends? What are the advantages and disadvantages of having this immediately trusting nature?

12. What is Arnulfo’s view of Molly and how is it different from Turi’s? Does Arnulfo have a more patriarchal view of women? If so, why? Give examples.

13. Describe Don Ilan’s view of human nature. How does he classify people? Who are Wild Beasts and who are Pretenders? What is a Quest? What is it to wear a mask, metaphorically speaking, according to Don Ilan? What do you think of his view of human nature? Is he right?

14. Why do you think Molly’s brother, Jim, hates Mexicans? What could lead two family members (Molly and Jim) to have very different views of immigrants? What has influenced Jim to have his xenophobic views? Describe Jim’s and Molly’s contrasting views about how the world works.

15. Why do you think the author makes the drug distributor John Broaddus Dunbar a blue-eyed, Anglo businessman whose ancestors fought at the Alamo? How is he the opposite of a stereotypical Mexican ‘drug lord’? Do you think the author is making a point about who has often profited from connections with Mexico in the drug trade?

16. Have you ever experienced the gap in self-perception versus social perception described by Turi (167-168), when “who he thinks he is in his mind is sometimes not who others see or imagine he can be”? How and why does this happen? How is this related to racism, or relying on stereotypes to judge someone? What does it take get to know the ‘real person’ when you meet a stranger?

17. Why is it significant for their relationship that Turi reaches to hold Molly’s hand without fear when he hears what El Hijo de Huerta did to Molly’s brother? What do you think Turi had to overcome to take this important step with Molly?

18. How did the Marburg-B virus get exposed (and into Chucho’s blood stream) when they were retrieving the blood vials from the blue Ford pickup in the impound lot in Torrington, Connecticut?

19. What do you think of Rudy’s philosophy of how America works, how former immigrants should help newer immigrants to become part of this country? What do you think of this philosophy of ‘paying it forward’ with generosity toward others, especially new immigrants? How does this philosophy help to build a community? Why do you think that some fight against helping newer immigrants?

20. Toward the end of Nobody’s Pilgrims (pages 234-235), how does the author communicate that Molly and Turi can see each other in the dark, their true selves, and why does this matter? Is the author criticizing those who only ‘see’ superficially? How must Turi overcome his own selfconception (stupid, chubby, Mexican kid with bruises on his body) before he can find love? Why do you think Molly allows Turi to touch her?

21. Why do you think El Hijo de Huerta attacks Oscar instead of Turi? Is El Hijo surprised by Turi’s appearance (the same polo shirt as Oscar’s)?



Turi Martinez reads the mystery book that transports him to the forests of Connecticut and to the adventures of a boy on a raft on the Housatonic River. But Turi’s neighborhood of Ysleta doesn’t have forests and is surrounded only by the Chihuahuan desert on the United States-Mexico border. Leaves do not litter the ground like a multicolored carpet, as Turi imagines they do in Connecticut in October or November. Instead hot, coarse sand covers the ground and swirls in the air with every gust of wind. At the library of Ysleta High, Turi often loses himself in photographs of New England church steeples, like sharp white cones piercing a blue sky; forests, dense and impenetrable; and layer after layer of misty green mountainsides in the faraway horizon.

Turi imagines building a cabin deep in a thicket of trees, next to a brook where he can fish. (He will have to acquire a taste for fish, which at present he doesn’t have.) He will find a secret place where his aunt Seferina will never find him and his uncle Ramon will never bother to look. Turiimagines it will be like a real version of where Charlie Brown lives, with doghouses like Snoopy’s and thick snow in the winter, green baseball diamonds and pumpkin patches, and a Thanksgiving dinner at a long, jam-packed table with red candles. Connecticut is the kind of place where a boy can cut his own Christmas tree in the mountains behind his backyard

Turi imagines in this Connecticut that he will not be alone, yet not with someone like the woman with the big butt in the magazine that Turi taped on the blue wheelbarrow. He imagines someone beautiful and nice, someone still only a blur in his mind. Someone who won’t mind someone like him. Turi rereads the page where he stopped in The Mystery of the Mighty Housatonic River the night before. In the summer evening, the flashlight in his hand shakes as his eyes study the page. The feeling is slowly coming back to his sore hands after he carried chickens all day. His aunt allows him to use the flashlight as long as he pays for the batteries, so she got Turi a summer job at a poultry farm. Mrs. Garcia, the librarian, has loaned him the book, and five others, and instructed Turi not to bring them back until September. She has made him promise not to get into trouble and not to lose those books, since she checked them out herself from the Ysleta High School library. She once asked Turi about a bruise on his neck. He told her a story about his dog Princey jumping on him and his falling back and hitting a dead branch on their pecan tree. Mrs. Garcia was his favorite adult at YHS, and she smiled at him—a fake smile, Turi could tell—and noticed the nail mark at the end of his bruise. But Mrs. Garcia was nice enough not to ask more questions, and Turi did not look away from her face. Princey is not his dog, but the German shepherd Turi Martinez imagines he will one day have, maybe in Connecticut. There is no pecan tree in their backyard, just a mound of car parts, including an engine his uncle Ramon hoisted over their stone wall with a rope one midnight. The bruise—well, that doesn’t matter anymore, because it eventually disappeared. Long ago in a dream, his dead mother Estela returned to him and kissed it away.

The boy in the mystery story, John, hates his family and escapes down the river. On this journey, he finds a canvas sack stuffed with money. The money belongs to bank robbers who bury the loot under a giant oak tree, but a black bear dug up the money sack and dumped half of it next to the river. John leaves the money where he finds it, but the robbers spot him as his canoe is rounding a bend on the Housatonic. They assume John has stolen the missing money. Secretly, they chase him and decide to kill him. Meanwhile, another pair of eyes in the flickering shadows follows the bank robbers and John.

“Turi, Turi! Where are you?” his sixteen-year-old cousin screeches like a bobcat through the cuartito’s door.

His heart races to the present. He shoves the book under his pillow on his lap. His mattress is on the floor. The door swings open and slams against the wall.

“Did you take my joints? You miserable cabrón!” Vanessa yells, the naked light bulb framing a shadowy figure with long hair and wearing heels.

“Uh, no. Why would I want your stupid mota? Leave me alone and close the door. I don’t do that shit.” Turi grips the pillow just in case she aims a fist at his face.

“I-don’t-do-that-shit,” she repeats in a whine. “What a baby! You’re a thief! I know you take things. Everyone knows.”

“Maybe your mother took it. Or Raul. Please get out of my room.”