The naivety of Nayeli and her friends is part of the charm as they set off on their trek to the United States. Urrea is an artist when it comes to setting the scene, using just the right number of brush strokes to paint a clear picture without letting the action drag. Here's Nayeli, exploring the mini-village that's been haphazardly erected out of old garage doors and box springs, in the Tijuana city dump:
Nayeli backed away from the dog and wandered down the alley to the edge of the cemetery. She was startled to see smoke rising from one of the graves. The crosses and painted furniture were stark in the morning light. Etched like charcoal drawings. Somewhere, a radio was playing--she recognized the song. Dave Matthews. She always liked that rola, the one where he asked the woman to crash into him, though now it seemed like the loneliest thing she'd ever heard.As the tale unfolds, their adventure becomes the backdrop for a subtle commentary on the politics of immigration. This should come as no surprise, given Urrea's history as the author of The Devil's Highway, a work of nonfiction centered around Mexican-American immigration, but Into The Beautiful North is entirely fiction. That is, except for Tacho. . . . And Aunt Irma. Those characters are based on real people. But, I digress. Where was I? Ah, yes--subtle commentary on the politics of immigration:
Nayeli was stunned to see mothers with children--the kids weeping and snot faced. She heard indiginous tongues in the pen--shamanic-sounding utterances that felt a million years old to her, sounds of jungle and temple and human sacrifice.The writing is beautiful, the story and characters are engaging. The only thing missing from the story is a sense of urgency. The bandidos in Tres Camarones don't actually do anything except sit around in their cars, looking ominous. The reader is able to enjoy the adventure of Nayeli and friends as if it were a topsy-turvy college Spring Break. A scene or two of these fellows wreaking havoc back in Tres Camarones would have turned a pleasurable read into a gripping, can't-put-it-down book.
Nayeli looked at the migra agents through the iron mesh. Big men. Happy, bright-faced men. Shiny and crisp. Green uniforms. Short hair. Mustaches.
What made them different from her?
She could not tell.
The Soundtrack: Urrea is a big music lover, and has created an entire playlist for the book, soon to be published on Largehearted Boy. He says, "I think of Shake Away by Lila Downs as the theme song." And since I quoted the reference to it, here's the Dave Matthew's Band song as a bonus.
Publication Info: Little, Brown & Company, May 2009