Alex Smith, a young boy who has recently lost both his parents in the tragedy of 9/11, is forced to move to Los Angeles to live with his only living relative, his grandmother: a strong-willed Chicana named Marta Torres. Both Alex and Marta struggle to navigate their feelings after this loss. Alex must deal with starting a new life in a strange place as well as being immersed in a culture he knows virtually nothing about. Marta must not only try to get her grandson to talk about his feelings but also come to terms with her resentment for her deceased daughter for not raising her grandson with a knowledge of the Chicana/o culture, as well as her resentment for her deceased son-in-law; in her mind, by taking her daughter across the country to New York, he is to blame for her death. At a certain point, a homeboy calavera named Califas shows up to offer Alex a shoulder to lean on as well as some tough love. Califas is a mythical figure meant to serve as Alex's conscience, but he is also the person who must help Alex come to terms with the fact that his parents are, indeed, dead. As the story progresses and the rift between grandson and grandmother widens, the tension boils to a point where Alex's emotional release has a devastating effect on his grandmother and on the altar she has created for the Mexican holiday, Dia de los Muertos. Ultimately, Alex and Marta acknowledge, for the first time, their mutual love for each other and come to the understanding that their journey as a family is just beginning. It is a journey with no easy answers, but they are both willing to try to find their way…together.
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