Saturday, September 25, 2010

Into the Beautiful North - A Review

Disclaimer: A copy of this book was provided by Hachette Book Group for review. The views expressed here are honest and are in no way influenced by the author or the publisher.


Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in the remote Mexican village of Tres Camarones and dreams about her father, who left for America years ago. Recently, it has dawned on Nayeli that he isn't the only man who has abandoned Tres Camarones. In fact, there are almost no men remaining - they've all gone north. This has also been noticed by a group of particularly nasty drug dealers, who, seeing an easy opportunity, plan to take over the town." But at a showing of the movie The Magnificent Seven at the village's decrepit theater, Nayeli has a vision: she will go north and recruit a group of men to return to the village. She will bring back her own "Siete Magnificos" to protect - and repopulate - her home. She and her friends head out for America, gathering a wild group of allies for a journey into the strange and beautiful land of their dreams and fears, the mythical place into which their fathers vanished, Their destination: a small town in Illinois, where Nayeli hopes to discover her father, her warriors, and - if she's lucky - her destiny

My Review

What a  beautiful story! What an adventure! When i got to the epilogue and realized that there was no more, i just didn't know what to do with myself. Into the Beautiful North is one of those books that qualifies as an 'unputdownable'. Its a great narrative but also its one that's steeped in social commentary. Themes such as Culture Shock, Immigration between the United States and Mexico and the disadvantages faced by Third World Countries are just some of the issues that Urrea highlights in his novel. And above all else, Into the Beautiful North is a story about a young woman (and her group of friends) who are on a quest to save their village and subsequently find themselves.

Into the Beautiful North is really thought provoking and i really loved that. You always here stories or watch documentaries about people entering into the United States illegally with the hopes of escaping the poverty in their villages. They take up menial jobs and never leave however what is least covered in the media are the Sojourners, the ones who eventually make there way back to their homeland. You never hear about the culture shock or the discrimination that immigrants face once they are on American soil. While reading this book, i felt that Into the Beautiful North was an testimony to all of these things. It really brought across the reality (and the security threat) of illegal immigration, but it also exposed the reader to the plight of these immigrants. You get a bit of  their background, their hopes and expectations once they get to America and funny enough their spat with Mexicans who are legal citizens.

An eclectic mix of characters is another thing that i loved about this story. I thought that they were all well developed and help to add an authentic flavour to the story. Tia Irma, Nayeli, Atomiko and Tacho were just a few that stood out for me because of what they represented; the traditional nature of Mexican society, the poverty, a rich culture, the pride that Mexicans feel for their country, the impact of western culture and values on Mexico's society. It all worked in tandem to make the story even more potent. Urrea's prose is also something that i enjoyed; quick and to the point. Most of his back stories only arise when it becomes necessary for the character or the story and this tactic really made you appreciate the situation or event that much more. I wasn't completely satisfied with how the author recreated the US as opposed to Mexico. I felt that the places that the characters visited and the experiences that they had while traveling through Mexico was much better developed that when they travelled through the US. Yet this minor detail could hardly quell all of the positives with this book.

Moreover, Into the beautiful north is just a down right, beautiful story. Readers will be delighted by the friendships that are forged and strengthened throughout this book. Your hearts will be broken by betrayal and by loss. You may even find yourself rooting for something this is totally against the law but one thing is for certain, you wont be disappointed by this story at all.

Into the Beautiful North is most suitable for book clubs (you can snag the reading group guideline here) or for individuals looking for a great read.

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