Back last month I picked up Luis Alberto Urrea’s Into the Beautiful North, a book (an ARC no less) that’s been sitting on my shelf since my first ever BEA 2009. This story takes place in the small town of Tres Camarones, Mexico, where our protagonist, Nayeli, realizes women have taken over the town. But it hasn’t been a forcible move; all the men have slowly disappeared, leaving Tres Camarones to head North to earn a living in the United States.
Nayeli decides it’s time to take back the town—back from the bandidos she sees lurking—and she embarks on a mission with her friends Yolo, Vampi, and Tacho to bring back seven men to protect the town and help it prosper once again. Their journey isn’t as simple as just crossing the border, though (as if that were simple in the first place); they have to make it to the border first. Nayeli and friends meet a lot of interesting characters during their journey from South to North that often surprise us, the reader, as often as it does Nayeli and her friends.
What I like about this story is that it’s such a simple idea, and how that idea is carried out is what really makes it a story. Nayeli is a strong young woman, but you realize she’s also very sheltered. It’s common as a citizen of one country to view other counties as a whole; the entire place is foreign to you, so you forget it has its own regional, cultural, and political differences. To the residents of Tres Camarones, the northern city of Tijuana is like a completely different country; it’s like someone from a small Montana town suddenly navigating their way through New York City. This is what was exciting to read in Into the Beautiful North—considering those regional differences you forget, or don’t realize, exist. Nayeli feels like a foreigner in her own country, but her personality won’t let that be a hindrance. She is on a mission, and she will succeed.
This is just the type of book I like the read and recommend to others, because it broadens your own horizons and shows you a different perspective. Into the Beautiful North proves that doesn’t have to be done in a serious way, either. This book is full of entertaining characters pursuing a mission, and having an adventure on the way.