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Into the Beautiful North: A Novel Hardcover – May 19, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 158 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Nayeli, the Taqueria worker of Urrea's fine new novel (after The Hummingbird's Daughter), is a young woman in the poor but tight-knit coastal Mexican town of Tres Camarones who spends her days serving tacos and helping her feisty aunt Irma get elected as the town's first female mayor. Abandoned by her father who headed north for work years before, Nayeli is hit with the realization that her hometown is all but abandoned by men, leaving it at the mercy of drug gangsters. So Nayeli hatches an elaborate scheme inspired by The Magnificent Seven: with three friends, she heads north to find seven Mexican men and smuggle them back into Mexico to protect the town. What she discovers along the way, of course, surprises her. Urrea's poetic sensibility and journalistic eye for detail in painting the Mexican landscape and sociological complexities create vivid, memorable scenes. Though the Spanglish can be tough for the uninitiated to detangle, the colorful characters, strong narrative and humor carry this surprisingly uplifting and very human story. (May)
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"[Into the Beautiful North] is deliciously composed...[Urrea writes] in a sweet but serious style...You find it in the dialogue...You find it in the description of the countryside... the plot gathers as much strength as the prose.."
Alan Cheuse, Chicago Tribune

"Awash in a subtle kind of satire...Aa funny and poignant impossible journey...Into the Beautiful North is a refreshing antidote to all the negativity currently surrounding Mexico."
Roberto Ontiveros, Dallas Morning News

"No great adventure is told without great characters, and Urrea certainly knows how to create them...that Urrea has turned a usually disturbing subject into a book that keeps a smile on your face is a tribute to his storytelling."―Miami Herald

"[A] wondrous yarn in the hands of a terrific storyteller...Urrea's meticulous detail makes the story come to life...Not to trivialize, but these characters cry out for a sequel-maybe a telenovela?--They are too good for just a single outing."―Valerie Ryan, Seattle Times

"A wonderful comic satire...Urrea uses a breathtaking Mexican magical realism to construct a shimmering portrait of the United States."―Denver Post

"With self-awareness and irony, Into the Beautiful North acknowledges its debt to the idealistic quest narrative and the tragic migration story...Urrea simultaneously explicates the seriousness of Mexican-US immigration while drolly narrating a Wizard of Oz-like circular fairy tale."―Bookslut

"A fantastical tale..."―Newark Star-Ledger

"It only takes a few pages of Luis Alberto Urrea's thoroughly enjoyable Into the Beautiful North to start you wondering whether this book will break or warm your heart...So which is it?...A little of both, of course, much like the shared history of both [the U.S. and Mexico]."―Bookpage

"Quest novels announce their purpose in a straightforward manner: Colorful, memorable characters prepare for and embark on a journey of immense significance...Into the Beautiful North is just such a novel. Among the many pleasures...is its big-hearted view of the United States as a foreign country. Since this is a quest, not a political novel, Urrea never gets bogged down in messages."―San Diego Union-Tribune

Read an Excerpt
Read the first chapter of Luis Alberto Urrea's Into the Beautiful North [PDF].

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown and Company; 1 edition (May 19, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0316025275
  • ISBN-13: 978-0316025270
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1.2 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (158 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #760,804 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Related Media

More About the Author

Luis Alberto Urrea, 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, is a prolific and acclaimed writer who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph.
Born in Tijuana, Mexico to a Mexican father and an American mother, Urrea has published extensively in all the major genres. The critically acclaimed and best-selling author of 13 books, Urrea has won numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays. The Devil's Highway, his 2004 non-fiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, won the Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize. An historical novel, The Hummingbird's Daughter tells the story of Teresa Urrea, sometimes known as the Saint of Cabora and the Mexican Joan of Arc. The book, which involved 20 years of research and writing, won the Kiriyama Prize in fiction and, along with The Devil's Highway, was named a best book of the year by many publications. It has been optioned by acclaimed Mexican director Luis Mandoki for a film to star Antonio Banderas.
Urrea's most recent novel, Into the Beautiful North, imagines a small town in Mexico where all the men have immigrated to the U.S. A group of young women, after seeing the film The Magnificent Seven, decide to follow the men North and persuade them to return to their beloved village. A national best-seller, Into the Beautiful North, earned a citation of excellence from the American Library Association Rainbow's Project. A short story from Urrea's collection, Six Kinds of Sky, was recently released as a stunning graphic novel by Cinco Puntos Press. Mr.Mendoza's Paintbrush, illustrated by artist Christopher Cardinale, has already garnered rave reviews and serves as a perfect companion to Into the Beautiful North as it depicts the same village in the novel.
Into the Beautiful North, The Devil's Highway and The Hummingbird's Daughter have been chosen by more than 30 different cities and colleges for One Book community read programs.
Urrea has also won an Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America for best short story (2009, "Amapola" in Phoenix Noir). His first book, Across the Wire, was named a New York Times Notable Book and won the Christopher Award. Urrea also won a 1999 American Book Award for his memoir, Nobody's Son: Notes from an American Life and in 2000, he was voted into the Latino Literature Hall of Fame following the publication of Vatos. His book of short stories, Six Kinds of Sky, was named the 2002 small-press Book of the Year in fiction by the editors of ForeWord magazine. He has also won a Western States Book Award in poetry for The Fever of Being and was in The 1996 Best American Poetry collection. Urrea's other titles include By the Lake of Sleeping Children, In Search of Snow, Ghost Sickness and Wandering Time.
Urrea attended the University of California at San Diego, earning an undergraduate degree in writing, and did his graduate studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder.
After serving as a relief worker in Tijuana and a film extra and columnist-editor-cartoonist for several publications, Urrea moved to Boston where he taught expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard. He has also taught at Massachusetts Bay Community College and the University of Colorado and he was the writer in residence at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.
Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, IL, where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Into the Beautiful North is funny and painful. Some of it is hard to read. It's about love of all kinds. Nayeli, the heroine, is a wonderful, feisty young woman. Urrea understands and respects women and it shows. He has great compassion for all of the characters in the book. Three young women decide to find men to repopulate their village Tres Camarones (yes, Three Shrimp), when Nayeli realizes all the men are gone. Four friends set out with great innocence, enthusiasm and determination to do something that may or may not even be possible.

Urrea brings the real flavor of a place into being. You feel what it is to be in a small village in Mexico. You feel the heat, and the salt air on your skin.

I don't want to give any spoilers here, you need to discover the book for yourselves, but remember the words "I am Atomiko!"

It's a road trip book, it's a border book, it's a 'buddy' book. It's about the great beauty and pain of Mexico. And the kindness and compassion of some and the cruelty of others. It's about the good and bad of the US, and about surprising kindness and pointless evil. It's about life. But always, it's about love. All the kinds of love that there are. Oh yes, it's about Yul Brynner.

This book would make a wonderful movie, and I'd love to see a sequel. A whole series of books about Nayeli and her friends. I won't tell you what her friends are like, part of the fun is meeting them for the first time.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
In this tale of four friends, one notorious and ugly fence, and two cultures, Luis Urrea puts his tremendous storytelling powers, years of experience, and imagination (always sympathetic) to use to create an unforgettable novel. I fell immediately in love with the characters, the dialogue (a great combination of Spanish, English, Hollywood, and street jargon mixed with references to pop fiction, movies, and music), and the scenery. Urrea's descriptive powers never fail him, whether he is describing the surreal charms of small-town Mexico, the insane majesty of the American west or a trip to the supermarket, where the packages of meat are lined up as neatly as books in a library.
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Format: Paperback
I'm not going to waste your time delving into the themes of this book: i'll bet you haven't read anything like it before. It gives new perspectives on Mexican people trying to get into the U.S. illegally, which i thought was fascinating. many of us living in the united states think of illegal immigrants from a U.S. taxpayer's perspective rather than a humanitarian perspective. Although this book may not change your opinion on illegal immigrants, it will definitely be some food for thought. Besides that, this book is just plain funny. I laughed out loud at several parts, which was a pleasant surprise. The characters are strong, yet relatable.

Read it now
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Format: Paperback
This was a surprise read. I didn't know what to expect but it was not this. This was a quick, fun read. Exactly what I needed. The dialogue is witty and descriptions fun. The author tells the story of the four friends who encounter the crime and poverty of their beloved country and contrast the problems of living in the United States. This is not a book on politics, immigration laws, or personal opinion. It is the story of one little Mexican town that needed a few good men, a hilarious female mayor, Aunt Irma, three girlfriends, Nayeli, Zolo, and Vampira (satirical name) and their fourth wheel, Tacho, the owner of a diner and personality not to miss. I chuckled my way through the book. A really fun read. Language and sexual innuendo makes it rated PG-13. Appropriate for high school girls. My copy will be given to the high school where I work.
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Format: MP3 CD
Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea on audio was a delight, especially with the voice and passion of Susan Ericksen. Nayeli is a young girl working in a taco shop in Tres Camarones, who continues to idolize her father that left her and her mother many years ago.

Her home is under attack from bandits and drug dealers, but many residents have been abandoned by other men seeking the opportunities found in America. While watching The Magnificent Seven with Yul Brynner, Nayeli and her friends -- Tacho, Yolo, and Vampi -- decide they are going to make a trek to America to bring back the seven they need to save their town.

The audio brings to life the accents, the culture, the beauty of each scene and the playful sparring between these characters and their new surroundings. Ericksen's passion for these characters and this story is clear, illuminating the innocence of Nayeli and her friends and the hardships they face.

From the colorful personalities of Nayeli's gay boss, Tacho, to her vampire/Goth girlfriend Vampi and perky and whiny Yolo to the matriarch of the village Nayeli's Aunt Irma, Urrea paints a mosaic of Mexico and the struggles of illegal immigrants and those seeking a better life. Readers will by far enjoy the quirky Atomico a warrior from the dump outside Tijuana the most as he seeks to defend the four from the ills of the world.

My husband and I were riveted when the audio rolled us to work every morning. Atomico was my husband's favorite character because he was like a comic book character; "I AM ATOMICO.
Read more ›
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