Patrick O'Neil's Reviews > Into the Beautiful North

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea
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's review
Jun 01, 2009

it was amazing
Read in June, 2009

Luis Alberto Urrea loves Mexico and all things Mexican. It is obvious in his writing, it is obvious in the way he celebrates the culture, the language and the people. You can see it in the way he takes pleasure playing with little nuances of nicknames and the absurdity of pop culture's influences on everything and everybody. He wraps your tongue around Vato Spanglish and makes you want to embrace a group of misfit heroes and heroines.

But it is hard times for Mexico and even Morrissey, rap music and Goth girls in white face and dark lipstick can't seem to save it. All the men have left. They've gone north to find work, and the villages they've abandoned lay open to the threat of banditos and pinche money hungry narcos. The women, as women are apt to do, hold the villages together waiting, but it won't be long before there is nothing for the men to come home to.

Beautiful Nayeli, the book's unwitting protagonist, remembers her father, the town's former policeman, but he too has gone north. And for a time he sent postcards and money, but that was a long time ago. She can't remember the last social dance, or wedding, or child born, because there hasn't been any of that going on. With all the husbands, and boyfriends across the border in America, their village, Tres Camarones, will soon be just another port for drugs to be brought to the mainland. That's when Nayeli's Tia Irma decides to do something about it. Ultimately she would like Yul Brynner and The Magnificent Seven to come to the rescue, but instead it is Nayeli and her friends that she finances to go North and bring back an army of men to save their village, and in doing so, Mexico as well.

There is much humor and beauty is this story and I won't ruin it by too much disclosure. Yet with seemingly ease Urrea weaves into his beautifully written adventure the dark realities of immigration. His images of border crossings and the callous Border Patrol agents are frightening and believable. The immense hostility and prejudice that someone faces entering America illegally is evident through the small details that make it obvious Urrea, at one time a relief worker in Tijuana, has seen his fair share of atrocities.

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message 1: by Luis (new)

Luis Alberto A (much belated) thank you for such a great review and for taking the time. Glad you enjoyed it. Hope to keep making you happy with my work!

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