This award-winning book is made up of a series of 40 letters written by Teresa, a young woman of Mexican descent, to her friend Alicia. The fact that it is made of letters makes this an epistolary novel.
Teresa and Alicia initially meet each other when they are around 20 years old on a study trip to Mexico. Teresa is a Latina and a poet, and Alicia is of mixed race and an artist.
The two meet when they are 20 years old when they both sign up for a cultural study program that takes place in Mexico City. Drawn to each other instantly, the young women decide to ditch the program and explore Mexico by themselves. What they lack in money, they make up for with enthusiasm for their new-found independence and freedom.
Teresa and Alicia encounter some horrific experiences along the way, and have to endure being physically assaulted, robbed, and almost raped. In spite of these humiliations, they create the type of memories that will last a lifetime. At the end of the summer, both go back to the respective challenges of their ordinary lives. However, both return with a new way of thinking and an unwillingness to settle for being unhappy.
The two visit Mexico again a year after their initial meeting, and their lives remain entwined in a number of ways.