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    Volume 8 Issue 77 | July 10, 2009 |

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Book Review

Into the Beautiful North


In a Mexican village called Tres Camarones, the men have gone missing. Over generations, fathers and sons went off to find work or new lives, and now the women left behind have realized they are alone.

These women work hard and still have time to dream of marrying Johnny Depp or getting friendlier with the cute missionary boy. They have a new mayor, and there is even some work at an Internet cafe. But a smooth drug dealer who calls himself Scarface has come into town and sized up the situation. He and his thugs plan to make the town their own.

They accost Nayeli, a dark 19-year-old beauty who works at the Fallen Hand Café. She handles herself, but later, during a viewing of the Magnificent Seven at the perpetual Steve McQueen film festival, she realizes what she needs to do: go into the United States, find seven Mexican men and persuade them to come back to Tres Camarones. So she grabs her pals Yolo and Vampi, and her flamboyantly gay employer, Tacho, and off they go.

In sweet youthful naiveté, Nayeli announces the simplicity of the plan: "We will only be there for as long as it takes to get the men to come." She continues: "The Americanos will be happy we're there! Even if we're caught!"

Now comes an entertaining slew of horrific street hustlers, terrifying Mexican officials, bumbling jump-the-gun boarder patrols, and a staff-wielding trash dweller who comes straight out of Kurosawa.

Luis Alberto Urrea's Into the Beautiful North is awash in a subtle kind of satire. Our travelers get sick from having to eat American fast food, and they get thrown out of a Mexican restaurant by a fellow Mexican who realizes they're illegal.

Here is a funny and poignant impossible journey in which the characters come to earn pride for a homeland they have gone on a comedic pilgrimage to defend. Into the Beautiful North is a refreshing antidote to all the negativity currently surrounding Mexico, with its drug cartels, police-abandoned cities and killer flu.

This review first appeared in The Dallas Morning News.


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