Into the Beautiful North – Luis Alberto Urrea (2009)

A really enjoyable novel that starts in a small village in Mexico with Nayeli, the young female protagonist. Her father has left the village and her family many years ago seeking work in the US, and Nayeli’s village is suffering as he was not the only adult male to leave. Such an exodus has left the village and its inhabitants an easy target for bandidoes and drug cartels, so Nayeli makes a plan.

The village doesn’t have much to do, but it does have a rather small and decrepit cinema which plays old movies. After watching “The Magnificent Seven” movie, Nayeli and a few of her friends leave to go to the US to recruit their own “Siete Magnificos”, their own group of men who will all return to the village and protect and repopulate it.

The journey north is long and filled with unforeseen twists, the group’s membership ebbs and flows, but the goal remains the same: for Nayeli to find her father in his last known location in Illinois, and to bring back some men to her village.

This was a really fun and quite happy novel to read, and I enjoyed every page of its well written prose. (I was also quite happy to see that it didn’t have magical realism in it, which can be somewhat annoying, I think, if you’re not prepared for it.) I have another of Urrea’s book (A Devil’s Highway) and have read an earlier work of fiction (The Hummingbird’s Daughter) and an earlier non-fiction (Across the Wire). This was just, overall, a very satisfying read. Loved it.

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