Friday, April 15, 2011

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

I was doing some shelf-reading a while back, making sure the fiction was in good alphabetical order, when I ran across Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea. It had a striking cover with different snapshots on the spine depicting scenes from a road trip. Then, I read the flap and found out it was about a girl named Nayeli who notices that all the men have gone up north to the U.S. for work, leaving her small Mexican town open to bandidos. So, after seeing The Magnificent Seven at the local cinema, she gathers up her friends and they go to the United States to bring their men home. 

Road trip? Motley band of chums on a quest?  I'm in.

Of course, I was already reading a book and so socked this one away on my Goodreads "to-read" shelf and promptly forgot about it. . .until Eva from A Striped Armchair mentioned it, as did Emily at Evening All Afternoon.

Okay, I'll admit, some of the scrapes they get themselves into on their trip up north are resolved a bit too tidily, but that was almost part of the charm. As "Los Hermanos Azul" (the Blues Brothers) would say. . .they were on a mission from God!  So of course things had to fall into place.  

But the characters!  Ah, the characters! I loved them. I wish they were my friends in real life.

Nayeli is tough and sweet.  She knows karate and she's not afraid to use it. Yet, she remains full of wonder at even the smallest things, like mountain goats in the Rockies or the Border Agent's skin (she'd never seen a black person in real life).

Vampi (short for La Vampira) who decides to go goth after giving up on being a pop icon.  So, she trades in her hot pants and see-through blouses for all black.  However, only her girlfriends note this change is after her parents were killed in a bus accident.

Yolo is the the bookish one who is always willing to help.  And sweet, long-suffering Tacho who runs La Mano Caida restaurant (you'll get the joke when you read the book) has to be one of the best sidekicks in history. 

The supporting cast is a random array of quirky characters that include At
omiko the staff-wielding samurai they meet at the dump, Missionary Matt the white surfer who they all have crushes on, and Tia Irma who is the first woman mayor of Tres Camarones, not to mention a bowling champion.

The cherry on top of this book is the library scene towards the end where they are welcomed with open arms by Mary Jo, the super librarian, who goes over and beyond to help them.  How can I resist a book with such an affirming view of libraries and the role they play in peoples' lives?  (In my defense, I loved this book even before I got to the library part--I'm not totally biased!)

Go read this book. You'll laugh. You'll cry. You'll feel an irrepressible urge to go on a road trip.

<I checked this book out of my library.>


No comments:

Post a Comment