Into the Beautiful North. Much of Mr. Urrea's interest is on the U.S.-Mexico border, both physically and psychologically. He's approached the subject from a nonfiction perspective, with The Devil's Highway being a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. He's written an acclaimed historical novel, The Hummingbird's Daughter, which draws from high Great Aunt Teserita's story, a farmworker whose healing powers hailed her as The Saint of Cabora (in Mexico but not in The United States).
But his most recent novel, Into the Beautiful North, though drawing on myths and stories, is upfront about its humor. It's a comic retelling of "The Magnificent Seven", told from the perspective of Nayeli, a young woman whose quest to save her Sinaloan town (well, likely Sinaloa--it's also a border town)by finding seven brave Mexican men to return to the United States and drive out the bandidos. I guess that's her Aunt Irma's quest really (Aunt Irma is a champion bowler and now mayor of Tres Camarones); Nayeli's personal quest is to find her father, now decamped to Kankakee, Illinois.
Nayeli rounds up her friends Veronica* and Yoloxochitl, as well as Tacho, the owner of the cafe where she works, and they head for the border. Veronica (or Vampi) is rather goth; Tacho is gay, though he's at once closeted and flamboyant. And Yolo? Nayeli soon finds her to be a rival for the affections Missionary Matt, the young man who once tried to save their town, and might be a savior still. Or might not. I'm not giving anything away.
Upcoming in-store lit group discussion:
Monday, October 3, 7 pm
The Hare with Amber Eyes, by Edmund de Waal
Winner of the Costa Prize, this is the rise and fall of a financial dynasty, told through a collector of the Japanese figurines, which were all that was left of their fortune.
*Apologies for the missing accents. Oy, computers!