Having recently finished Luis Alberto Urrea’s ‘House of Broken Angels’, a multigenerational story of the final days of Big Angel, the patriarch of a Latino San Diego family, I opened ‘Into the Beautiful North’.  It is a very different kind of book.  Instead of the summing up of life in old age, it is a story of youth and adventure.  Its heroine is Nayeli, an athletic nineteen year old living in the Mexican Pacific coastal village of Tres Camarones.  She comes to realize that her village faces twin problems: as all the men have gone north to the US, there are no longer babies, and no one to protect the villagers from banditos, the corrupt police and narcotics agents. At about this time the watches ‘The Magnificent Seven’, in which Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen heroically save a village from the bad guys.  Inspired, she sets off the US to find Mexican men to return to Tres Camarones, and at the same time to find her father who years ago left the family and moved to Kankakee, Michigan.    Accompanied by her boss at the taco shop at which she works and two girlfriends, she sets out north on her quest.  In the process, she meets a variety of quirky characters, experiences both the cruelty and terror of crossing the border, but also kindness from unlikely sources along the way.  The book is many things, both a traditional quest tale, a re-telling of ‘The Seven Samurai’, and a study of bravery.  As in much of Urrea’s work, it starts with the life of immigrants, but in its own way reaches beyond to tell a much broader story. 


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