Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea


Having loved Urrea’s book The House of the Broken Angels, I was moved to listen to this audiobook, a good choice. It is the tale of three girls recently graduated from high school in a small town in Sinaloa, who along with their gay friend Tacho, decide to travel north to the United States to recruit seven men to to return to Mexico to repopulate their town and save it from threatening bandits. (They were inspired when they saw the movie, The Magnificent Seven.) This was a great way to introduce lots of fun, if unlikely characters, make points about immigration and bad border crossings, and have a bit of a travelogue, all told with a light touch.

Niyeli is the leader; she gets funding from Irma, the mayor, and off they go. They lose their luggage, have adventures in Tijuana, including meeting Atomiko, warrior of the garbage dump, who attaches himself to them and turns up wherever they land. After one failed attempt to cross the border, they make it, but have become separated from Tacho who has his own adventures. They find much to love in San Diego, and much they miss about home.

Niyeli is intent on finding her father who had sent a postcard home from Kankakee, Illinois years before. She and Tacho set off across the country in an ancient van to find him. The sights they see and people they encounter are fun to read about, especially Estes Park. They find that folks in Kankakee love Mexicans, and they are warmly welcomed. Best of all is that Niyeli is directed to a library for help finding her father and the librarian knows how to make that happen.

And yes, they were wildly successful in their mission. This is a book filled with fun and good messages.

Luis Alberto Urrea, Into the Beautiful North, Little, Brown and Company, 2009, 343 pages (I listened to the audiobook). Available at the public library.

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