Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to theUS 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.
Nineteen-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.
Nayeli is a young woman who works in a taqueria in Tres Camarones, a coastal village in Mexico too poor to be of interest to most people, attacting a few surfers occasionally. But then the village's remoteness and its lack of men (almost all of whom have gone north to the US) makes it appealing to those involved in the drug trade. With the help of two friends and her entertaining and spunky aunt Irma, Tres Camarones' new mayor, Nayeli concocts a plan to reclaim the village from the criminals. After seeing the movie The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli knows she must go to the US and find seven men to come back to Tres Camarones and defend the people. But this quest is more than just a public service to her village, Nayeli hopes to find her father who has long since disappeared into the US and to bring him home where he belongs.
When Nayeli and her two friends set off on their noble quest, the story really starts cooking along. The girls' travels through Mexico are vivid and not uneventful. After all, what is a noble quest without windmills to overcome? Unfortunately for the girls, the windmills are very often not of their imagining but instead real obstacles to their goal. Getting into the US is not easy and the irony of the matter is that once they are there as illegal immigrants, it will also be illegal for them to try and get back into Mexico. But first they must find seven men who are willing to return with them and then to take back their town.
The characters in the book are vividly written and just plain fun. They are real and entertaining and funny and a delight to spend time reading about. The tone of the book stays fairly light despite the deep and heavy themes of perseverance, illegal immigration, discrimination, poverty, and bravery. But it is this very lightness that allows the reader to think clearly about these loaded political and emotional issues. There is humor galore here and I read much of the book with a smile. Nayeli's strength is apparent to all but herself and she is a totally engaging and appealing main character. A well-constructed, beautifully paced novel, this is a great reading group choice, the adventure and the balanced look at life for illegals in the US make it eminently discussable as well. Because I already know you'll enjoy reading it.
So begins [Into the Beautiful North], a novel about Tres Camerones, a village that is being threatened by drug trafficking. Nayeli, a nineteen-year-old who works at a taco shop, is concerned. Many men, including Nayeli's father, have left the village to go the U.S. When Nayeli's Aunt Irma is elected mayor of Tres Camerones, Nayeli decides to take matters into her own hands. Inspired by The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli and three friends head to the U.S. to bring back seven men to protect the village.
Despite the seriousness of the issues at the heart of this novel, Urrea brings humor to every page. Nayeli herself is a compelling heroine. Although she and her friends face barriers and prejudice, they also find people who give them a paltry but shared meal, a place to stay, a sweatshirt, a ride to the bus station. The collection of supporting characters leaps off the pages. In the end, Urrea doesn't provide Nayeli with any easy outs. Instead, he has created a character who survives by her own wits.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
I enjoyed the first 200 pages of this book and then it tapered off for me a little. It lost a bit of its charm once the crew crosses the border, for me at least. It seemed that perhaps the author didn't know exactly what to do for the ending, so he just quickly wrapped it up without giving us much explanation that I would have appreciated. The characters are good and interesting and for the most part I enjoyed this book.
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.
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.
One of the women of the village, nineteen year old ex-soccer star Nayeli, decides that it is necessary to find some men to come live in the village and protect them. She is inspired by the film, "The Magnificent Seven," and its star, Yul Brynner, whom the ladies believe is Mexico’s greatest actor because of the perfect Spanish he speaks in the dubbed version of the movie. ["The Magnificent Seven" is a 1960 American western film about a group of hired gunmen protecting a Mexican village from bandits. It is a remake of Akira Kurosawa's 1954 film, "Seven Samurai."] Nayeli convinces two of her girl friends and one gay restaurateur to accompany her on a quest to recruit seven Mexican he-men, preferably soldiers or former police, from north of the border to return to Mexico and save the village from the pillaging bandidos. Nayeli also has a hidden agenda to find her father, who left the family long ago and now lives in Kankakee, Illinois.
The little band encounters many dangers and barriers to travel, the worst of which are in Mexico in the form of corrupt officialdom. They finally cross the border at Tijuana, but are apprehended and returned to Mexico by the U.S. Border Patrol. Only after they are befriended by an experienced drug smuggler are they able to effect a safe crossing through a secret tunnel.
Their adventures continue in the States, where they are subjected to substantial discrimination, but ultimately they recruit many men willing to return to Mexico. First, however, Nayeli must complete her own private mission. She is able to borrow an old car from a former missionary who had once worked in Tres Camarones, and sets out on a cross-country trip to Kankakee to find her father. It is a tribute to Urrea’s prose that he depicts the long car ride in two short chapters, yet gives a wonderful overview of most of the western two-thirds of the United States. In Kankakee she meets people who are genuinely friendly and helpful to “illegals” like her, and she finds out what happened to her father.
Discussion: Urrea’s ear for Spanglish is acute. He is able to create a dialog that sounds very much like the mixed Spanish and English conversation of Mexican immigrants in Tucson. His short remarks and common words are Spanish slang, which takes a little getting used to, but the over-all effect is convincing. He uses clear English to convey more complicated conversation, so that single-language Americans need not consult their Spanish dictionaries very often.
The secondary characters are Dickensian in their eccentricity, and it would make the review over long to do them justice. Suffice to say that they are nearly always amusing and often hilarious.
Evaluation: Urrea offers perspicuous insights into the living conditions, aspirations, and perceptions of the undocumented aliens. I highly recommend this book.
Luis 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!
Luis Alberto Urrea
In 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!
by Luis Alberto Urrea
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
This book was deliciously lyrical and why would you expect anything less than this from the author of the widely acclaimed novel The Hummingbird's Daughter and 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction for The Devil's Highway. Mr. Urrea has outdone himself this time writing about Nayeli, the wonderful heroine who sets out on a monumental quest from her small southern Mexican town to America. Humor is woven from start to finish into a rather harrowing and realistic journey through the rugged and dangerous countryside of Mexico to Tijuana, Mexico from where illegal passage into the U.S. is planned. I was reminded of Don Quixote and longed for the success of the adventure of Nayeli and her unique companions. Once they reach Tijuana, the author's deep knowledge and love for Tijuana comes through vibrantly. One of the most fascinating depictions is life in the Tijuana dump. The squalor of living conditions is truly harrowing but is balanced by the beauty of human resilience and joy for life of the dump inhabitants. This is not the story of a group of people seeking and finding the holy grail in America. It is rather the poignant story of a person's quest to do something for the greater good of her beloved community and coming to America temporarily to achieve that and return to her beloved country.
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.
Slowly, however, the 19-year-old comes to realize that her father isn't the only man who has left to go north. In fact, the only men left in the village at all are the old and the very young. So when a group of drug-dealing banditos stumble across the village, there is no one left to hold them off or keep them from using Tres Camarones as a base of operations. Inspired by the movie 'The Magnificent Seven,' Nayeli decides that the only answer is to go north herself...not to find work, but to find seven men willing to come home with her and protect the village. She along Tacho (who dreams of Hollywood) and her best friends (who dream of blond American boys) and sets out on a journey that is both fraught with danger and filled with small instances of kindness and friendship...into the beautiful north.
The light tone of the book is a delight, taking a serious topic (illegal immigration and prejudice) and making it manageable but still affecting. Nayeli and her motley crew of friends and allies are delightful and memorable.