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Into the Beautiful North ~ Luis Alberto Urrea

June 18, 2009

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Genre: Adult Fiction

Publisher: Little Brown and Company

342 pages

ISBN: 9780316025270

In a small coastal town in Mexico, the men have gone missing. Year after year, more and more fathers and sons from Tres Camarones journey north to the other side of the American border, looking for the paradigm of occupational success. The problem is, they never return.

This has not gone unnoticed by the remaining occupants of the town, nor by a circling pack of drug dealers, sensing the town’s weakening staff. Fearing the town’s impending collapse if it remains devoid of testosterone, nineteen-year-old Nayeli and her three friends, Tacho, Vampi and Yolo put their heads together to come up with a solution.

Their only plan is to venture north as their fathers have done, this time with the hopes of returning with their wayward men and perhaps a few additional applicants. Dreaming the impossible dream, Nayeli and an accumulated band of misfits embark on an unforgettable journey into the great unknown to bring back that which will save the fate of their small town.

Sitting down to review Into the Beautiful North is a little bit like picking up pictures from the developer after an exotic vacation; the retelling simply cannot do the original justice. Luis Alberto Urrea weaves a beautiful, if heartbreaking story, crisscrossing the blurred borderline in an unconventional way.

Urrea does a fantastic job of painting characters, on both sides of the border, as realistically flawed with mostly good intentions.  It is impossible not to fall in love with each member of the group as even the scruffiest of the wayward pack are painted as endearing, despite their transgressions. I will say, though, that while the women are portrayed in a positive light, as strong yet vulnerable, they are not as fleshed out as the men. Perhaps that was the intention, as the story centers on recapturing the masculinity that the village has lost.

I enjoyed taking a tour of my own country through the eyes of the Tres Camarones crew even if, or perhaps because, it was not always rosy.  I also appreciated a different approach to the old border buzz. We hear such a continuous stream of crossing controversy from the news media that this refreshing angle served to reignite my interest in the topic.

Into the Beautiful North is, altogether, a fantastic adventure story that reads smoothly throughout and I thoroughly recommend it.

6 Comments leave one →
  1. June 18, 2009 6:20 pm

    Great review. I’ll have to put it on my list.

  2. June 18, 2009 7:14 pm

    Thank you so much for such a well-thought out and well-written review! I’m so happy you liked the people of Tres Camarones. On booktour, I’ve been telling people that this is the first time I feel like I could write a novel about each of the individual characters in my story.
    Thanks again and perhaps we’ll meet up on the road.
    Luis Urrea

  3. June 19, 2009 2:46 am

    I love it… sounds exactly like something I’d love to read. I’m putting it on my list! 🙂

  4. doulamama1 permalink
    June 19, 2009 5:55 am

    WOW Pam, that was very well written and thought out. i thought at first that I was reading the synopsis on the book cover or something and that I would be getting to the ‘review’ part in a minute! And very cool of Urrea to stop by, fabulous! I want to read this book now.

  5. June 20, 2009 1:53 pm

    “Sitting down to review Into the Beautiful North is a little bit like picking up pictures from the developer after an exotic vacation; the retelling simply cannot do the original justice”

    That’s how you know it’s a good book. I love that feeling! Thanks for the review

  6. June 21, 2009 3:10 am

    This is something different than what I would usually read. It sounds interesting!

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