Sunday, May 17, 2009

Into the Beautiful North

Tres Camarones was unguarded on that late summer's day when so many things had already changed. And everything that remained was about to change forever. These are some of the opening sentences of Into the Beautiful Northby Luis Alberto Urrea. The men of the fictional Mexican village on the Pacific coast have slowly been leaving town over the last ten years, looking for work in the beautiful North, Los Yunaites, as they call the USA. Now, the women and old men suddenly realize how vulnerable they are to bandidos who want to take over their homes and businesses.


Inspired by Stever McQueen in The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli, a recent high school graduate, decides that the town needs seven protectors, and more importantly, men to repopulate their town and bring it back to its glory days. Supported by her Aunt Irma, the mayor, Nayeli, along with her friends Tacho, Yolo, and El Vampi, hit the road, intending to sneak into the United States, find strong, brave men who are former soldiers or police, and bring them home. Nayali also has a personal mission, she intends to go to Kankakee, Illinois, from where she received a postcard from her father several years earlier.
A true road trip story unfolds for the four friends, who have never left their village, experience changing landscapes, lifestyles, and attitudes. They meet people whose lives are horrible, and those living a life of luxury. Some of these people help them along on their quest, while others hold them back by stealing their supplies. In particular, the old couple of Don Porfirio and Dona Araceli stood out to me. When it looks as if all hope is lost, overwhelmed by the chaos and crime of Tijuana, they are taken to the home of these kind people. It reminded me of the Beaver couple who helped Edmund when he was first in Narnia. Porfirio and Araceli live in a village that has build up around a landfill. Their little shack, built from reclaimed materials, is surrounded by rose bushes, brightness in a sea of despair.
Like most stories about small town life, Into the Beautiful Northis full of colorful characters, both in the village and along the road. The reuniting of a couple separated for over 30 years, reconnecting with a missionary the foursome had met years earlier, and meeting Atoniko, king of the dump and admirer of Nayeli, who assists them along on their journey.
I was prepared to find this book sad and possibly discouraging. It definitely was not! It was inspiring, making me think about what really makes a home and a happy life, loyalty, and strength of character. Nayali is a wonderful heroine, who is both physically adept with her judo and soccer training, as well as thoughtful and ethical, although naive due to her sheltered life thus far. But she is also a real person, experiencing jealousy, feeling downtrodden and wanting to give up, and being accepting of a situation that is absolutely something she did not want. I found the information about the Mexican-American border interesting, as well as the descriptions of Tijuana, a place I've never wanted to visit, and definitely will never go! I highly recommend Into the Beautiful North, as it had me both laughing and thinking, but never crying. This video with award-winning author and teacher Luis Alberto Urrea really helps set the stage for the book.


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9 comments:

Rocksee said...

I have heard of this book! I am all about the library these days so I am gonna check for this one..!!

If I had a Tai Chi group in my neighborhood I would DEFINATELY be gettin up and tryin to copy them.. but I am crazy like that!!

Thanks for stopping by!

Marie Reed said...

You blog is always book heaven Elizabeth! This bookworm loves it!

Luis said...

Thank you so much for your wonderful review, Elizabeth! I'm really proud of this book and hoping it will make people happy -- and make them think. Thanks for "getting" that. Not sure where you are, but please come and say hello if I'm reading near you!
Best, Luis Urrea

Tammy said...

You are so good at this! You always make it so interesting.

Marshmallow Circus said...

Sounds like a wonderful book!

ANovelMenagerie said...

I also read and reviewed this book. I liked it a lot!

Here's my review if you're interested in reading it: http://anovelmenagerie.com/ghost/2009/05/05/book-review-into-the-beautiful-north/

Sheri

Jesmi said...

Thank you so much for your wonderful review, interested in reading it...

Diane said...

I tried this book, but could not get into it. I also have Hummingbird's Daughter (to be read soon). Glad you enjoyed it.

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