Richard, an American in Mexico, helps save the lives of the guilty. A mitigation specialist, hired by defense teams on capital cases in the U.S., he combs the back roads of starving-to-death Mexican shanty towns and agricultural villages. Divorced, a failed novelist with no family, and not too keen on attachments, he investigates the traumatic personal histories of undocumented Mexicans facing the death penalty in his home country.
Esperanza is a young woman from the destitute Mexican hamlet of Puroaire. Trying to escape a life of poverty and abuse, her journey leads her to the United States, where she works on a cleanup crew after Hurricane Katrina. Her harrowing adventure is like that of millions of undocumented workers in the U.S.—until she finds herself in a jail cell, accused of murdering her baby. When Richard visits Esperanza in jail, the boundaries of his closely circumscribed life explode.
Set in the American South and in rural Mexico, One Life examines the indelible links between life and death, sex and love. It's at once a page-turning mystery and a profound examination of freedom and justice.