Into the Beautiful North ~ Luis Alberto Urrea
Genre: Adult Fiction
Publisher: Little Brown and Company
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.