Into the Beautiful North

Into the Beautiful North

by Luis Alberto Urrea


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Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the US to find work. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn't the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village—they've all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men—her own "Siete Magníficos"—to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over.

Filled with unforgettable characters and prose as radiant as the Sinaloan sun, INTO THE BEAUTIFUL NORTH is the story of an irresistible young woman's quest to find herself on both sides of the fence.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780316025263
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication date: 06/16/2010
Pages: 338
Sales rank: 133,636
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.10(h) x 1.10(d)
Age Range: 14 - 18 Years

About the Author

Luis Alberto Urrea is the author of The Devil's Highway, winner of a Lannan Literary Award; Across the Wire, winner of the Christopher Award; and the incredibly acclaimed The Hummingbird's Daughter. He is also the recipient of an American Book Award, a Western States Book Award, and a Colorado Book Award, and he has been inducted into the Latino Literary Hall of Fame. He lives in Chicago

Read an Excerpt

Into the Beautiful North

A Novel
By Urrea, Luis Alberto

Back Bay Books

Copyright © 2010 Urrea, Luis Alberto
All right reserved.

ISBN: 9780316025263


Chapter One

The bandidos came to the village at the worst possible time. Of course, everyone in Mexico would agree that there is no particularly good time for bad men to come to town. But 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.

Nobody in the village liked change. It had taken great civic upheaval to bring electricity to Tres Camarones, for example. Until 1936, ice came in big trucks, and fathers took their sons to observe it when it slid down the ramps in great clear blocks. It took the visionary mayor, García-García the First, to see the potential in electrical power, and he had lobbied for two years to have the wires strung from far Villaunión. Still, there were holdouts a good decade after Tres Camarones had begun to glow with yellow light. Such stalwarts relied on candles, kerosene lamps, and small bonfires in the street. These blazes, though festive, blocked the scant traffic and the trucks bearing beer and sides of beef, and García-García had to resort to the apocalyptic stratagem of banning street fires entirely. Denounced as an Antichrist, he was promptly defeated in the next election. Later, he was reelected: even if his policies had been too modernizing for some, the residents of Tres Camarones realized that a new mayor meant change, and change was the last thing they wanted. Progress might be inevitable, but there was no reason they should knuckle under without a fight.

True, the occasional hurricane devastated the low-lying forest and semitropical jungles and reformed the beaches. Often, parts of the town were washed away or carried out to sea. But the interior clock of evolution in Tres Camarones was set only to these cataclysms of nature.

And then, the peso dropped in value. Suddenly there was no work. All the shrimp were shipped north, tortillas became too expensive to eat, and people started to go hungry. We told you change was bad, the old-timers croaked.

Nobody had heard of the term immigration. Migration, to them, was when the tuna and the whales cruised up the coast, or when Guacamaya parrots flew up from the south. Traditionalists voted to revoke electricity, but it was far too late for that. No woman in town would give up her refrigerator, her electric fan, or her electric iron. So the men started to go to el norte. Nobody knew what to say. Nobody knew what to do. The modern era had somehow passed Tres Camarones by, but this new storm had found a way to siphon its men away, out of their beds and into the next century, into a land far away.

The bandidos came with the sunrise, rolling down the same eastern road that had once brought the ice trucks. There were two of them. They had to drive south from Mazatlán, which was at least an hour and forty minutes away, then creak off the highway and take the cutoff toward the coast. Explosions of parrots, butterflies, and hummingbirds parted before them. They didn’t notice.

One of them was an agent of the Policía Estatal, the dreaded Sinaloa State Police. He earned $150 a month as a cop. The drug cartel in the north of the state paid him $2,500 a month as an advisory fee. He got a $15,000 bonus each Christmas.

The other was a bottom-level narco who, nevertheless, was the state cop’s boss. What he needed to really get ahead in his game was a territory to call his own, but the cartel had the state sewn up, and there was no room for him in Baja California, Sonora, or Chihuahua. He had hit the drug gangster’s glass ceiling and it irked him, because he looked so damned good. The boys called him Scarface. He liked that. In spite of the awful heat and soggy air of the coastal swamplands, he wore a white sport jacket and regarded the world through mirrored sunglasses, sucking on a cinnamon toothpick.

Neither of the two bandidos enjoyed this bucolic trip to the bottomlands. But the one in the jacket had gotten a cell phone call from Culiacán that there were gringo surfos camping on the beach who were in need of some bud. He shook his head as he looked out at the stupid mango trees: all this trouble for marijuana. “It’s a job,” Scarface said. The cop snorted.

Scarface wore his irritating chrome .45 automatic in a shoulder rig. It made his armpit and ribs into a swamp of perspiration. It was against the law for a Mexican to carry an automatic weapon, though he didn’t even think about it. His partner wore a uniform and had a heavy Bulldog .44 in a Sam Browne holster—the narco could smell its leather and was irritated by its squeaking as the car bumped along the bad road.

The holster squeak was the closest they could get to a theme song. There was nothing on the radio out here except the crappy Mexican music on AM.

“Me gusta Kanye West,” the narco said, snapping off the radio.

The state cop said, “Diddy es mejor.”

“¡Diddy!” cried Scarface.

They argued for a few moments.

Soon, they reverted to silence. The cop turned up the AC. His gun belt squealed.

“Dios mío,” Scarface sighed. “I hate the country.”

The men kept their windows rolled up, but they could still smell the ripe effluent of mud and clams and pigsties and spawning fish in green water. They wrinkled their noses. “What is that?” the cop asked. “Boiling mangos?” They shook their heads, greatly offended. The other one pointed.

“Outhouses!” he scoffed.

They couldn’t believe it! These towns were so backward, Emiliano Zapata and a bunch of revolutionaries could ride through at any moment and fit right in. The bandidos, a generation removed from outhouses, sneered at the skinny dogs and the absurd starving roosters that panicked as the car rolled over oyster shells and brushed aside sugarcane and morning glory vines. The rubes down here had apparently never heard of blacktop. It was all dirt roads and cobblestones. No tourists.

They were slightly pleased, yet jealous, when they noted one of the small houses had a satellite dish.

As in most neighborhoods of most tropical Mexican villages, the walls of the homes in town went right to the edge of the street. Walls were wavery and one block long, and several doors could be found in each. Each door denoted another address. The windows had big iron railings and wooden shutters. Bougainvillea cascaded from several rooflines. Trumpet flowers. Lantana. The bandidos knew that the back of each house was a courtyard with a tree and an open kitchen and some chickens and an iguana or two. Laundry. On the street side, the walls were great splashes of color. One address might be white, and the next might be pale blue and the next vivid red with a purple door. Sometimes, two primary colors were divided by a bright green drainpipe or a vibrating line where the colors clashed and the human eye began to rattle in its socket.

The big police LTD rolled down the streets like a jaguar sniffing for its prey. The two visitors came out of the narrow alleys into the open space of the town plazuela, a tawdry gazebo and a bunch of trees with their trunks whitewashed. On the other side of the square, they spied a restaurant: TAQUERIA E INTERNET “LA MANO CAIDA.”

“The Fallen Hand Taco Shop? What kind of name is that?” the cop asked.

“It’s an Internet café, too,” the narco reminded him.

“Jesus Christ.”

“Let’s get out of here quick,” his partner said. “I want to catch the beisbol game in Mazatlán tonight.” He spit out his toothpick.

They creaked to a halt and could hear the music blasting out of the Fallen Hand before they even opened the car’s doors.


Excerpted from Into the Beautiful North by Urrea, Luis Alberto Copyright © 2010 by Urrea, Luis Alberto. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

What People are Saying About This

Roberto Ontiveros

Awash in a subtle kind of satire...Aa funny and poignant impossible journey...Into the Beautiful North is a refreshing antidote to all the negativity currently surrounding Mexico.

Dallas Morning News

From the Publisher

"[A] lush, rollicking novel of quests, self-discovery, and romance." —-Booklist Starred Review

Customer Reviews

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Into the Beautiful North 4.1 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 58 reviews.
choochee More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. I wasn't bothered at all by the Spanish, as some reviewers were, as the story carried me along without the need to understand every word of dialogue. Living in San Diego, it was fun to read about my city from the point of view of these wonderful characters. Great story, colorful characters, and beautiful writing. By the way, I am middle aged and did not consider this a young adult novel; it has appeal for all ages.
Chris-An More than 1 year ago
I first heard about this book a few months ago driving in my car. The book was being reviewed and the author interviewed. I really enjoyed the whole premise and the well written selections the author shared. I thought I would remember the title. Painfully not. Then a couple of weeks ago, I ran across it just browsing the bookshelves at my local B&N. Wow! I loved this book. The characters are so richly developed and the plot so different. There is a great deal of humor to a very complex story which at times becomes tense and at other times so sad. Nayelli and her girls (plus one delightful guy) and the wonderful people they meet on their journey "into the beautiful north" are characters who will not easily be forgotten. P.S. Spanish phrases are sprinkled throughout, but it isn't distracting if you don't know Spanish.
nfmgirl More than 1 year ago
I picked up this book and immediately connected with the main character and the storyline. I found author Luis Alberto Urrea's writing style very easy and engaging-- something really necessary for me. I've said before that I am not a "book club" kind of girl. I don't want reading to be a challenge. I don't want to spend my time trying to interpret a bunch of symbolism. I simply want to be engaged and entertained, and perhaps have my eyes opened a little wider (in either enlightenment or surprise). I slipped into this book like a comfortable pair of old slippers. It just felt good. This is the story of a Mexican girl named Nayeli, who lives in the town of Los Camerones. The men have left her town for the US in search of work and fortunes, and the inhabitants of town have been left vulnerable. Nayeli gets the idea to go to the US to recruit Mexican men to come back to Los Camerones, and also in search of her own father who went to the US and quit writing to the family. This story captures the complexities of illegal immigration and the highly-charged emotions surrounding it-- not only in our own country, but in Mexico as well. I enjoyed the characters of Nayeli and Tacho and the nutty Atomiko. I held on until the end, waiting to find out whether Nayeli would ever find her father. One negative is the excessive use of spanish without translation. I often found myself feeling like an outsider looking in-- as if only I knew what they just said, I could join in on the joke and find it all very clever! I found this to be a very enjoyable read. It wasn't deeply thought-provoking or emotionally stirring, but it was an interesting story with engaging characters and a beautiful writing style. I give it two thumbs up-- and maybe I'll throw in a pinky-toe, too!
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Powerful, richly described settings, characters, and a captivating story. Urea writes with passion about the people he knows, respecting them and giving us fresh eyes as witnesses to their lives. I first read this book a couple of years ago and found the story haunted me for a second read. I appreciated the writer more the second time and have since purchased copies for friends and family. Thank you, Mr. Urea.
bermudaonion on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nayeli and her friends Yolo and Vampi seem to be the only young people left in their small village, Tres Camarones, Mexico. All of the men have gone north (to the United States) to earn a living, so there¿s no one left to protect the village from bandidos. While Nayeli and her friends are out crabbing one day, she realizes there are no babies in the village either. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli becomes inspired to head north to recruit seven men to return to Tres Camarones to defend the village.Nayeli heads out with Yolo, Vampi and Tacho, the owner of a local cafe. They leave with the well wishes and money of most of the villagers. (Nayeli also has a personal mission she wants to fulfill ¿ she wants to find her father who is in Kankakee, Illinois.) They face some difficulties crossing the border and seek out Matt, a young American who had visited their village as a missionary a few years before. Matt is willing to help them and when word gets out that they¿re seeking men to return to their village, the response is overwhelming.I loved Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea and am afraid my review won¿t do it justice. It¿s a story of strength and determination and the love of a culture and village. It¿s the story of immigrants, but not in the traditional sense of the word. I loved the character of Nayeli ¿ she was strong physically and mentally and a true leader. I was appalled to read about the way some people have to live just across the border in Mexico. I loved reading about the United States from the eyes of someone from another culture. When Nayeli and her friends descend on Matt, he¿s ready to apologize because his mother¿s apartment is not very nice, but he comes to realize they think it¿s luxurious. I cringed at the way some of the Americans treated the group from Tres Camarones and was proud of the way others responded. This book is beautifully written and will certainly make you reflect on your views of immigration.
sagustocox on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea on audio was a delight, especially with the voice and passion of Susan Ericksen. Nayeli is a young girl working in a taco shop in Tres Camarones, who continues to idolize her father that left her and her mother many years ago.Her home is under attack from bandits and drug dealers, but many residents have been abandoned by other men seeking the opportunities found in America. While watching The Magnificent Seven with Yul Brynner, Nayeli and her friends -- Tacho, Yolo, and Vampi -- decide they are going to make a trek to America to bring back the seven they need to save their town.The audio brings to life the accents, the culture, the beauty of each scene and the playful sparring between these characters and their new surroundings. Ericksen's passion for these characters and this story is clear, illuminating the innocence of Nayeli and her friends and the hardships they face.From the colorful personalities of Nayeli's gay boss, Tacho, to her vampire/Goth girlfriend Vampi and perky and whiny Yolo to the matriarch of the village Nayeli's Aunt Irma, Urrea paints a mosaic of Mexico and the struggles of illegal immigrants and those seeking a better life. Readers will by far enjoy the quirky Atomico a warrior from the dump outside Tijuana the most as he seeks to defend the four from the ills of the world.My husband and I were riveted when the audio rolled us to work every morning. Atomico was my husband's favorite character because he was like a comic book character; "I AM ATOMICO." While the border crossings were the most exciting aspects of the novel for my husband, the end of the novel fell flat; he considered it an open ending as if there were more to come -- that the journey had not ended. Urrea's writing is passionate and tangible, capturing the reader instantly and weaving a tale that envelops them completely.Into the Beautiful North is one of the best novels I've read in 2009, but I plan to read this in hard copy as well.
detailmuse on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Into the Beautiful North opens in Tres Camarones, a dying Mexican village. Most of the men have left to pursue work elsewhere -- including 19-year-old Nayeli¿s father, who disappeared long ago to Kankakee, near Chicago in the United States. Now, prompted by bandits who increasingly target her village and by the film, The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli organizes two girlfriends and her gay taco-shop boss on a quest to cross the border into the US and round up some virile men -- maybe even her father? -- to bring back to defend -- and re-populate :) -- the town.The early chapters are an engaging and funny introduction to the village and its likeable residents. A sense of magic and a sprinkling of Spanish evoke Mexico, accompanied by brutal depictions of poverty and lawlessness and intriguing perspectives on US culture. About a third in, the narrative turns somewhat skeletal, as though the novel has been sketched but not fully written. About two-thirds in, the quest turns into a road-trip travelogue that continues until the characters are ¿weeping with boredom and despair¿ -- and so was I, a little bit :) Still, now that I¿ve seen how beautifully and light-heartedly Urrea can write, I'm eager to read The Hummingbird¿s Daughter.
iwriteinbooks on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
In a small coastal town in Mexico, the men have gone missing. Year after year, more and more fathers and sons from Tres Camarones journey north to the other side of the American border, looking for the paradigm of occupational success. The problem is, they never return.This has not gone unnoticed by the remaining occupants of the town, nor by a circling pack of drug dealers, sensing the town¿s weakening staff. Fearing the town¿s impending collapse if it remains devoid of testosterone, nineteen-year-old Nayeli and her three friends, Tacho, Vampi and Yolo put their heads together to come up with a solution.Their only plan is to venture north as their fathers have done, this time with the hopes of returning with their wayward men and perhaps a few additional applicants. Dreaming the impossible dream, Nayeli and an accumulated band of misfits embark on an unforgettable journey into the great unknown to bring back that which will save the fate of their small town.Sitting down to review Into the Beautiful North is a little bit like picking up pictures from the developer after an exotic vacation; the retelling simply cannot do the original justice. Luis Alberto Urrea weaves a beautiful, if heartbreaking story, crisscrossing the blurred borderline in an unconventional way.Urrea does a fantastic job of painting characters, on both sides of the border, as realistically flawed with mostly good intentions. It is impossible not to fall in love with each member of the group as even the scruffiest of the wayward pack are painted as endearing, despite their transgressions. I will say, though, that while the women are portrayed in a positive light, as strong yet vulnerable, they are not as fleshed out as the men. Perhaps that was the intention, as the story centers on recapturing the masculinity that the village has lost.I enjoyed taking a tour of my own country through the eyes of the Tres Camarones crew even if, or perhaps because, it was not always rosy. I also appreciated a different approach to the old border buzz. We hear such a continuous stream of crossing controversy from the news media that this refreshing angle served to reignite my interest in the topic.Into the Beautiful North is, altogether, a fantastic adventure story that reads smoothly throughout and I thoroughly recommend it.
mckait on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I read and loved Urrea's book The Hummingbirds Daughter. Because of this I did not hesitate to buy Beautiful North, without a second thought. I was then a little afraid to read it, thinking it might be disappointing to me. I shouldn't have worried. Nayeli is a young girl from a Mexican village. One day, she realizes that the men in her village have slowly drifted away. They have nearly all gone north, into the United States. Most of them, including her father, have eventually simply disappeared. Nayeli is from a family of strong positive women. In fact, the small village has several strong woman, and some of the young ones decide to go on a mission. They are going to go north and find men. They want to bring back seven good, strong, brave men to their village. It isn't safe to live in a place with not enough men, they decide. This is the story of their mission. The people they meet and the way that they themselves grow and change. They learned a lot along the way and found themselves in some very difficult situations. This is about taking the road from childhood to adulthood, and about loyalty strength and family. Recommended
hemlokgang on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A delightful novel full of humor, poignancy, and inspiration. The characters are memorable. Nayeli, the heroine, conceives a quest to save her peaceful village from bad guys after viewing the film, "The Magnificent Seven". And off she goes. The story is something of a rite of passage tale, as the characters discover new strengths within themselves while simultaneously losing their innocence. You will love "The Warrior", Tia Irma, and the couple who live in a shack in the dump, but grow roses in their yard. You will laugh and cringe. You will root for the good guys and despise the bad guys. It is an epic tale in contemporary form. Thoroughly enjoyed the book.
lriley on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Luis Alberto Urrea's 'Into the beautiful North' begins in a small fictional seaside town--Tres Camarones in Sinaloa, Mexico . Prospects have been pretty dead there for some time and most of the male residents have left for greener pastures--many of them 'illegals' crossing the United States border. Into town comes some bad actors--drug dealers and corrupt cops and the new mayor Irma (a huge Yul Brynner fan) and her niece Nayeli hatch a plan after seeing the Brynner-Steve McQueen flick 'The magnificent seven' to rid their town of these eveil malefactors. Nayeli along with her boss Tacho--the gay cook at a local diner and her girlfriends Yolo and Vampi will cross over into the United States and recruit seven men (soldiers? ex-cops?) who will come back and rid the town of the vermin. Nayeli is hoping as well to find her father who left the family long ago and who's last known whereabouts was a postcard from Kankakee Illinois. Anyway they find it harder than they think. Young and naive and lost in Tijuana they are prey to all kinds of people looking to take advantage of them. Their second night there they are befriended by an old couple who take them back to their shack set in the middle of a dump. Here Nayeli meets one Atomiko--kind of the 'king' of the dump but mostly goodhearted though a bit on the eccentric side. Atomiko agrees to help them cross the border but on their first attempt they are caught by the Border Patrol and returned to Tijuana minus Tacho who innocently makes an unfortunate remark that is misheard and he is pounced on as a terrorist. The girls are all upset but a friend of Atomiko is able to get them across the border and into San Diego where later Tacho having been released rejoins them after getting a lucky break of his own. Irma herself shows up in San Diego to help them but she also is looking for a long lost love. She takes over the recruiting and Nayeli and Tacho borrow a van head off for Illinois to find Nayeli's father. All in all I like the book--it can be a little uneven and it has an open ended conclusion and I'm kind of of the mind that it might of served the book better if he had more of an ending. Urrea has a light conversational often humorous storytelling tone that keeps things moving along fairly briskly and a good and adventurous eye for detail and a broad perspective on how humans of different races, genders, nationalities look at each other. It's not always good and it's not always bad. It struck me that Urrea wanted to say something about how badly people can treat each other for the percieved differences of being out of their 'place'--that people are people and not really so much different from each other and when bigotry appears it is not just confined to one group or to one place--nor is tolerance when it rears its un-ugly head. An idea I have is that Urrea might see himself both as a Mexican citizen and as a United States citizen and he is balancing both worlds. Anyway his book seems to strike a balance between both these North American cultures and for what it's worth I found it pretty entertaining as well.
Myckyee on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is the story of a young woman who goes in search of men as protectors to her village. It was well-written and humourous. The characters were full of life and well-developed and I could connect easily with them. I found the descriptions of life in a Mexican village to be authentic (well, only having visited Mexico once, what I imagine to be authentic). The story is imaginative and easy to read. I recommend it highly.
gpedalino on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Into the Beautiful North is funny and painful. Some of it is hard to read. It's about love of all kinds. Nayeli, the heroine, is a wonderful, feisty young woman. Urrea understands and respects women and it shows. He has great compassion for all of the characters in the book. Three young women decide to find men to repopulate their village Tres Camarones (yes, Three Shrimp), when Nayeli realizes all the men are gone. Four friends set out with great innocence, enthusiasm and determination to do something that may or may not even be possible.Urrea brings the real flavor of a place into being. You feel what it is to be in a small village in Mexico. You feel the heat, and the salt air on your skin.I don't want to give any spoilers here, you need to discover the book for yourselves, but remember the words "I am Atomiko!"It's a road trip book, it's a border book, it's a 'buddy' book. It's about the great beauty and pain of Mexico. And the kindness and compassion of some and the cruelty of others. It's about the good and bad of the US, and about surprising kindness and pointless evil. It's about life. But always, it's about love. All the kinds of love that there are. Oh yes, it's about Yul Brynner.This book would make a wonderful movie, and I'd love to see a sequel. A whole series of books about Nayeli and her friends. I won't tell you what her friends are like, part of the fun is meeting them for the first time.
sshartelg on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I loved this book. Nayeli is a fabulous young woman to root for ¿ smart, funny, feisty, and brave. Determined to stop drug lords from moving in on her small town in southern Mexico, 19-year-old Nayeli leads her two girlfriends and her gay boss on a quest to the United States to bring back seven Mexican ¿warriors¿ to both protect the town and hopefully repopulate its dwindling male population. (Most of the men of the town, including Nayeli's father, have long since gone north to the U.S. in search of work.) This is a hard book to categorize ¿ it¿s funny, it¿s thought-provoking, it¿s romantic, it¿s adventurous, the list goes on ¿ but a very easy one to recommend.
kpickett on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nayeli has spent her whole life in Tres Camarones, a small but hardly quiet town in Mexico. Most of the men have left the town to find work in the United States, leaving Tres Camarones with children, old men and women when the drug cartels move in. Nayeli's aunt Irma was just been elected mayor and demanded a Yul Brenner film festival, Tia Irma thinks he is the best Mexican actor of all time. The theater owner, a devoted Steve McQueen fan, shows the movie "The Magnificent Seven" and Nayeli is inspired. She decides to leave her hometown and go to the United States to find seven heroes who she will bring back to defend Tres Camarones from the cartels that are threatening to overrun it, and secretly she hopes to find her father in Kankakee, Il and bring him home to her mother.Nayeli's friends Yolo, Vampi (so called for her goth fashion) and Tacho (the only gay man in Tres Camarones) set off for Tijuana with little more than the clothes on their backs, and the contributions of the citizens of Tres Camarones.Urrea's story is one that is easy to understand and lacks the usual clichés of other quest stories. The reader immediately loves Nayeli who has her faults (that we can all identify with) but is ultimately optimistic and courageous. All of the characters are easy to love, even the border patrol. I was so worried when each of the travelers tucked away their money that would help get them to the US and back. In any other story they would have lost all of their money and luggage within the first hundred pages; but I was relieved to see that Urrea did not follow that cliché and instead let the story unfold without such a tragedy to push the plot along. The book is a beautiful story, if a little bittersweet and I couldn't help myself from breaking into a big smile at the end of the epilogue. I am anxious to read Urrea's other works and look forward to his next work of fiction.
faceinbook on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I LOVED Urrea's "The Hummingbird's Daughter".....if I were to give that book a rating , I would give it five stars. This novel, though well written, did not affect me in quite the same way. I started reading this novel and wondered if I was reading a book by the same author. Having said that, I enjoyed the book well enough. Into The Beautiful North is many things, a story, a political statement and a social commentary. Many readers seem to shy away from these type of novels, not sure why but, this story is an important tale. As with any piece of literature, the contents should somehow inform us, change us or enlighten us in some way. Into The Beautiful North accomplishes this on many levels.What I particularly enjoyed about this book was Urrea's sense of humor. An author who can make me laugh, is an author I will return to however many stories he/she publishes. This book will get four stars from me, only because I read Urrea's earlier books and the bar was set pretty high.
hairball on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I couldn't quite go to four stars on this one, even though I enjoyed reading it, because of two things, really: first, I couldn't tell if the author was trying to be instructive and political or entertaining (probably both), and this caused the story to be a bit disjointed; second, the book ended very abruptly, with a deus ex machina device and an epilogue, and I felt cheated. One of the good things is that the book isn't a "Mexicans come to the U.S. and a series of unrelentingly bad things happen to them as hideous reality smacks them in the face" story. But this book tries to straddle the fence between politics and fairy tale, and it's a weird fit.The characters are well-done, but the end left me empty, especially since it's not done from any of the main characters' POV.
nfmgirl2 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I immediately connected with the main character and the storyline. I found author Luis Alberto Urrea's writing style very easy and engaging-- something really necessary for me. I've said before that I am not a "book club" kind of girl. I don't want reading to be a challenge. I don't want to spend my time trying to interpret a bunch of symbolism. I simply want to be engaged and entertained, and perhaps have my eyes opened a little wider (in either enlightenment or surprise).I slipped into this book like a comfortable pair of old slippers. It just felt good.This is the story of a Mexican girl named Nayeli, who lives in the town of Los Camerones. The men have left her town for the US in search of work and fortunes, and the inhabitants of town have been left vulnerable. Nayeli gets the idea to go to the US to recruit Mexican men to come back to Los Camerones, and also in search of her own father who went to the US and quit writing to the family.This story captures the complexities of illegal immigration and the highly-charged emotions surrounding it-- not only in our own country, but in Mexico as well. I enjoyed the characters of Nayeli and Tacho and the nutty Atomiko. I held on until the end, waiting to find out whether Nayeli would ever find her father.One negative is the excessive use of spanish without translation. I often found myself feeling like an outsider looking in-- as if only I knew what they just said, I could join in on the joke and find it all very clever!I also found a typo or two, and there was even one spot in the book where the wrong girl is referred to. I found myself thinking, "Wait a minute! That's not Yolo! That's Vampi!" I read it over and over to see whether I was missing something, but I wasn't. The author (or someone) used the incorrect girl's name in that spot! Hopefully these errors were caught and fixed before release, since this is an ARC copy that I have.I found this to be a very enjoyable read. It wasn't deeply thought-provoking or emotionally stirring, but it was an interesting story with engaging characters and a beautiful writing style. I give it two thumbs up-- and maybe I'll throw in a pinky-toe, too!
alexann on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
After noticing that there are no children or men left in their village, Nayeli and her three compadres decide to head North themselves (that's where all the men have gone) to find the "Magnificent Seven" to help repopulate the village, and stave off invasion from the gringo drug-runners. Thus begins the quest. Many adventures ensue, including their bus trip from the village to Tijuana, and their TWO attempts to illegally cross the border. Along the way, they meet many unforgettable characters, including Atomiko, the king of the dump in TJ. Grand adventures in the spirit of the quest hold the reader's attention, as do the well-drawn characters and the situations in which they find themselves. Although well-written if it had had a bit more editing the story would have been tighter and more compelling.
JGoto on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Nineteen-year-old Nayeli and her friends come to the realization that there are no men left in their small, poor Mexican village. All of the able-bodied males have gone north to the USA to try to earn money. Bandits come to town and there is no one left to protect the women and children left there. Nayeli and 3 friends decide to go on a mission: Go to the USA and bring back seven men (this, after seeing the movie, The Magnificent Seven) to save the town. Witty and peopled with colorful characters, Into the Beautiful North is an irresistible gem of a book.
Berly on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto UrreaNineteen-year-old Nayeli lives in a Mexican village bereft of men. They have all gone north into America to find jobs, even her father. After watching The Magnificent Seven at her local decrepit theater, she vows to cross the border and bring back seven men to help repopulate her village and ward off the invading nasty drug dealers. On her quest for warriors and her father, Nayeli enlists the aid of her girl posse and the local gay restaurant owner. This colorful rag-tag group travels north, encountering other truly memorable characters along the way. Filled with humor and beauty, this book explores the difficult life of some Mexicans and immigrants in the US. This book is funny, joyful and powerful, with some of my favorite characters ever. Not all the threads are neatly/happily tied up in the end, which is perhaps why I found it so satisfying. Four 1/2 stars.
Joycepa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Into The Beautiful NorthLuis Alberto UrreaIn the tiny Mexican village of Tres Camarones (3 Shrimp) in Sinaloa, 19 year old Nayeli and her two friends, Yolo and Vampi, along with the gay owner of a taco stand, Tacho, are inspired by the Yul Brunner film, the Magnifient Seven, to go to Los Yunaites (the United States) to seek replacements for the men who have left the village. Traficantes (drug dealers) have discovered Tres Camarones and the women, led by their intrepid mayor, Irma (Nayeli¿s aunt) don¿t feel capable of handling the situation alone; they need ex-cops and ex-soldiers to combat the threat. The young women feel the lack of suitors. In addition, Nayeli harbors the not-so-secret hope of finding her father, who sent her a postcard years ago from Kankakee, Illinois but from whom she has not heard since. The four, each with his or her own fantasies of what the US is really like, set out on an epic journey, completely innocent of what they will encounter along the way.What they encounter (and whom) and how they deal with it is mostly hilarious, at times serious, and always fascinating. The scenes in Tres Camarones are at times hysterically funny. There is one episode where Aunt Irma and Nayeli go shopping at a market that had me laughing out loud; it is a brilliant satire on US immigration policy (any more would be an unforgivable spoiler).The sections on Tijuana and crossing the border are far from amusing, and show, actually, the easier aspects of illegal entry. The reactions of the four on what they find in the US and to US culture are wonderful, seen from the point of view of Innocents Abroad.But truly best of all are the characterizations. Aunt Irma is a force of nature. The girls are themselves, and well done, as is Tacho. But my favorite of all is Atómiko; like tha author, I just wish he were real!The only drawback to the book is that is is liberally sprinkled with Spanish idioms and Mexican street slang, which are almost always either translated or made clear (or you can make a very good guess!). A few times, they aren¿t. But that is almost trivial in a book that is so well written, with such great humor and imagination.Not to be missed!
ANovelMenagerie on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The ReviewLuis Alberto Urrea is, without a doubt, a very talented writer. He has won a multitude of awards and has been a Pulitzer Prize finalist (2005). Although I was unfamiliar with his past works, there was something about this story that intrigued me.I¿ll start by sharing that I wish I was more fluent in Spanish than I currently am. this book had quite a bit of Spanish conversation in it. Some of it I got, others not so much. But, the language didn¿t prevent me from understanding the story and what the characters were experiencing. The overall Spanish language of the book somewhat reminded me of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. However, this story is much different. As aforementioned, this is a story of a woman from a small seaside town in Mexico who is on a mission to change her town. All of the men had left the town for work and many of them immigrated to the United States of America. With nearly all of the men gone, the city had no protection, limited commerce, and a dwindling population. The women of Tres Camarones wanted their men back!The novel maintains several colorful characters whose lives you observe during this mission to bring the Mexican men back from America. There is a major component of this story in which the reader observes the attempts at border crossing into the U.S. This part of the story invoked many emotions within me¿ some my personal opinions regarding illegal immigration and others sympathizing with the characters on their journey. It was interesting to read about the botched attempts as well as the successful ones. Further, viewing the American lifestyle from the viewpoint of the neighboring immigrant was very intriguing.I ¿Heart¿ Mexico!I am a huge lover of Mexico! I used to travel there 3 times a year (Rosarito & Ensenada, Baja California). Rosarito is my absolute favorite 4-day getaway (except for the border at re-entry¿ talk about traffic!). I have my much loved taco stands (oh, my precious barbacoa), bars, and shops¿ not to mention my favorite beachside motel. I love everything about Mexico, except maybe my reaction to the water that I¿m not supposed to drink (and try not to, but there¿s ice!). The pear juice-water in Mexico is to die for¿ not to mention the creamy milk and cheese! There is fantastic almond-flavored tequilla and their beer is magnifico! But, since my ex-boyfriend and I broke up, I haven¿t been. I don¿t want to go down there without a larger group AND male protection. Things at the border and just south of it have gotten so bad. In fact, there are kidnappings and all kinds of crazy things that weren¿t usually an issue. And, now I can imagine my readers thinking, ¿¿ and the Swine Flu!¿ I miss Mexico and this book just made me long for it!Living in Southern California, there is a high Hispanic population and many have immigrated from Mexico. So, Cinco de Mayo is hugely celebrated in my area¿ and, I¿m celebrating right along there with them! We go to Mario¿s and I have my fill of strawberry margaritas and seafood. But, it¿s nothing like ¿Lobster Village¿ in Mexico at sunset with a ¿Coco-Loco¿ in hand. On Sher¿s ¿Out of Ten Scale:¿This book is truly unique. It¿s not like many others that I¿ve read in the past year. I think that I had an affinity with this novel because of my love for Mexico and familiarity with the landscape in which it was described. I¿ve often wished that I possessed enough money to invest in a house or trailer down there for my early retirement years. It¿s just so relaxing and close to home. For me, this book was enjoyable and I would recommend it. It would DEFINITELY make for good BOOK CLUB discussion!
catarina1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An enjoyable read, very sympathetic charcters. (I wish I had an Aunt Irma). The story of their trek to Los Unites to find their "Magnificant Seven" has been described elsewhere. Somethings were predictable - the squalor of the slums, the reactions that they would receive from the border guards. But that does not stand in the way of the enjoyment of the book. Recommended.
miriamparker on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to admit that I never got into Urrea's other books, although I love the KIND of books he writes. But this one grabbed me from the start and did not let go. He is able to find beauty in ugliness in a way that I really admire.