Sunday, June 14, 2009

Review: Into the Beautiful North

Summary: 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. -- Little, Brown & Company

This month, my on-line book club decided to read INTO THE BEAUTIFUL NORTH by Luis Alberto Urrea. I've been looking forward to reading it ever since I received an ARC a few months ago; and ever since I had to opportunity to meet the author and his lovely wife at BEA, I just couldn't wait! Meeting Mr. Urrea was actually one of my BEA highlights. Both he and his wife are incredibly nice and so fun to talk to. (In fact, his wife even took some pictures of us so we could all be in the pictures.) I have to admit that I'm a little concerned about writing a review of this book because I don't feel that I'm worthy. So this "review" is probably just going to be me rambling about why I thought this novel was so good.

When I read the description, the first thing I thought was "Wow! What a great (and very unique) idea for a book. And, I have to say that I did love this story. The idea that a young woman decides to head north to the United States to bring back men to repopulate her village is just a great idea for a book. And, the entire journey from this small coastal village to the heartland of the United States does make for some interesting scenes. I felt as if I got an authentic view of Mexico (both the good parts and the not-so-good parts) as well as the entire ordeal of trying to illegally enter the United States. Reading this novel was definitely an eye-opener for me.

But there were just so many other wonderful things about this book in addition to the storyline -- the plot was just the foundation for a fantastic novel. INTO THE BEAUTIFUL NORTH is just so well-written and this book is just a pleasure to read. It shouldn't be surprising that Mr. Urrea's prose is beautiful because he is a critically acclaimed author whose awards include a Lannan Literary Award, a Christopher Award, and American Book Award, and a Western States Book Award.

He tells this story in such a special way -- he just captured my attention and drew me into these characters' lives. I realize that I'm not doing a good job of telling you why this book touched me like it did, but it was definitely Mr. Urrea's writing style. His prose was poetic at times, yet it was also filled with brutal honesty; and his descriptions are just picture-perfect. I swear I could see this entire book running through my mind while I read it. What even amazed me more about this novel (and actually surprised me a great deal) was the amount of humor in this story. There is no doubt that this book deals with some very serious issues, yet Mr. Urrea included so many entertaining scenes and characters into this story.

Another thing I absolutely adored about this book were the characters. Mr. Urrea created some very memorable characters that managed to capture my heart. I couldn't help but adore Nayeli and her attempts to save her village -- she was so determined and yet so naive. Her composure and determination throughout all of the setbacks were just so honorable and even inspiring to me. I loved how she managed to never give up and always kept her wits about her. I also adored her three sidekicks, especially her gay friend Tacho because he was just an absolute hoot. And, I really appreciated Nayeli's Aunt Irma and what she represented -- pride in her village and country.

After reading INTO THE BEAUTIFUL NORTH, I definitely want to read more of Mr. Urrea's books. I think I'm going to become a huge fan! Check out this very interesting video in which the author talks about some of the inspiration for his latest novel:

I think INTO THE BEAUTIFUL NORTH will make for a wonderful discussion when my on-line group meets later today to talk about it. The story alone is entertaining, but the writing is absolutely beautiful too. I think we will have such a good time discussing the characters as well as the overall themes in this novel. Some of the things that I'm most looking forward to discussing are: the issues with immigration, the strength and resilience of women, and what it means to be a hero. I also think it will be very interesting to talk about the various characters and their personality traits. This is one novel that I just can't wait to share with my friends!


bermudaonion said...

I couldn't wait to see what you had to say about this book and your review didn't disappoint me! YOu always do such a good job expressing your feelings in your reviews. I've written my review, and don't feel like I did the book justice.

Pam said...

This book sounds fascinating - I'm going to add it onto my list of books to read but it also sounds like one my book club may enjoy reading. Thanks so much!

Beth F said...

Good job on the review. I don't think it's the easiest book to write a review of. I enjoyed it, but I had trouble with it until Nayeli and Tacho started driving to find her father.

I'll be giving it a solid B rating. The writing and humor are terrific, I just didn't buy all of the story.

ANovelMenagerie said...

I really enjoyed your review of this book. I, too, read and reviewed it. I liked the book and did pass it along to a fellow blogger.

Anonymous said...

I'm a few chapters into this one. Unfortunately, I left it at home when I needed a book to read, so it's been set aside while I finish The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane. But I hear it screaming my name.

Luis said...

Thanks so much for the review! What a nice thing to come home to after a grueling booktour. I'm so glad the characters were so vivid for you: I feel the same way. It's the first time I feel I could write a novel for every character! Thank you again for reading and for taking the time to post your review.

Beth F said...

I'm baaaack! We didn't touch on all the issues in the meeting but I think we all were taken with the writing and the realism of the people and the places.

S. Krishna said...

I'm glad you enjoyed this book so much! You did an amazing job with your review.

Jen - Devourer of Books said...

I'm really dying to read this!