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Into the Beautiful North

by Luis Alberto Urrea


Nineteen-year-old Nayeli of Tres Camarones, Sinaloa, Mexico, a movie aficionado, is determined to find her own "Magnificent Seven" men in the United States and bring them home to Tres Camarones. For a very good reason, these men need to have been soldiers or cops.

Nearly all the men in town have gone north for work, never to return. The vulnerable town is now harassed by bandidos determined to take over. Nayeli, her tavern-owner boss, and two of Nayeli’s friends make a treacherous trek to Tijuana with plans to cross the border. Nayeli has a second purpose as well. She wants to find her father, who left several years ago and who lives in Kankakee, Illinois. An interesting character named Atómiko joins the group part of the way and proves to be resourceful. The group’s encounters with the Border Patrol and other discouraging challenges are eye-opening and, at times, heartbreaking for Nayeli, who carries on regardless.

Award-winning and best-selling author Luis Alberto Urrea has given us another richly textured story. Although fiction, it surely rings of truth. Into the Beautiful North is compelling, and Urrea’s lyrical writing, a delight. At times the reader just must go over the words again for the sheer pleasure of them. For instance, when describing a dump where many are living (and many have died), he writes, "The ocean breeze lifted white plastic bags from the slopes of the black hill. They rose like ghosts. It was quite beautiful. The bags floated silently in waves, soaring and falling, and drifting, too—pale balloons full of unwanted wind." The story’s characters will stay with you, too, long after you finish.

The Book

Little Brown & Co / Hachette Book Group
May 2009
0316025275 / 978-0-316025270
Fiction / Contemporary
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The Reviewer

Deb Kincaid
Reviewed 2009
© 2009