Reviewed by Geoffrey S.

The bandidos appear in Tres Camerones at a time when there are no policemen in the small Mexican village, in fact no men at all. The Notorious girls, mentored by Aunt Irma, the new mayor, and fueled by mission-driven Nayeli, 19, decide to travel to Los Unaites, the United States, and bring back men to repopulate and protect the village.

In Tijuana they find a Mexico foreign to them, with its own language and a big city life with an American-type excitement. They encounter danger and prejudice as well as a protective hero in the form Atomiko, an apocalyptic garbage picker. He helps them cross the border, through the use of a friend’s marijuana trafficking tunnel that comes up through a shop on the other side. In the U.S., the crew meets Missionary Matt, a heart throb they originally met in Tres Camerone, who provides them a base in San Diego. From this base, the Notorious girls attempt to recruit seven men to come back with them, and find more than seventy men eager to return home.

Into the Beautiful North, written by Luis Alberto Urrea, is at once poetic, mythic and earthy. Fierce, determined, exploding with life, the novel is funny, entertaining, and beautifully written. An engaging comic realism and a big fierce heart infuses Into the Beautiful North with irrepressible life. It is a book you will likely want to read more than once.

Luis Alberto Urrea grew up in Tijuana and is the son of an American mother and a Mexican father. He has witnessed the struggles of a Mexico torn apart by a poverty that impels its men to cross the border in order to help their families survive.