What I’m Reading

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

Back Bay Books, Little, Brown and Company, NY, 2009. (YA and Adult readers)

into the beautiful north

I loved this book.  LOVED IT.

After listening to an interview with Urrea in an On Being podcast, I was so impressed with his responses, his poetry reading, and his humor that I ordered the book.

When I was reading the end of the story, I think I actually shouted at our heroine, “No!  Don’t go away now!”  I was instantly struck by the fear that I was turning into my Aunt Helen who got so swept away during a Broadway play that she yelled advice to  the actors.

Urrea’s characters are broad and deep, original, and delightful.  I enjoyed the back-and- forth with English and Spanish, and the street talk.  Atomiko, in particular, was a stroke of brilliance.

Into the Beautiful North is a quest novel, but it also provides an education for those of us who don’t know of the conditions at the U.S./Mexican border.

These days, I firmly control my book-buying and use the library system.  However, I’m glad to own Into the Beautiful North, because I plan to read it again, more carefully.  The first read is for the story.  The second read is for the writer.  I kept asking myself, “How does he DO that?”  I want to write like Urrea, to be able to use description, devices, and humor in such a smooth, fresh way.

Regarding humor, my stories tend toward the serious, even though Archer and Carl the Third are amusing in Tangled in Magic. I just take the world too seriously, even worlds with talking birds and magic.

It’s tough to be learning a craft in my golden years, but certainly a welcome challenge that keeps me working.

Thanks, Luis Alberto Urrea, for a wonderful book.


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