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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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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*Starred Review* If you are a judo-practicing, butt-kicking 19-year-old Mexican woman in a town with only one youngish man and he's gay you might decide to go to El Norte to recruit illegal immigrant men to revive your village. And Naveli, a twenty-first-century female Don Quixote with a three-person posse that includes her gay boss, does exactly that. This wonderfully funny, occasionally sad novel combines elements of the picaresque with the joie de vivre and startling coincidences of a road-trip movie. Urrea's knowledge of immigrant life, the rigors of poverty, and how being poor affects everyday existence provides the gritty details that make characters and places come alive. Sardonic humor, rugged details of the working-class poor, and the exotic, often bizarre characters all contribute to an outstanding reading treat. Fans of Urrea's nonfiction and his Kiriyama Prize winner, The Hummingbird's Daughter (2005), will probably not expect this lush, rollicking novel of quests, self-discovery, and romance. But once committed to the trip readers will have no trouble staying till the bittersweet and triumphant end.--Loughran, Ellen Copyright 2009 Booklist
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"Perhaps it is time for a new kind of femininity," declares Nayeli, the 19-year-old heroine of this engaging postglobalization immigration story from the author of The Hummingbird's Daughter. Nayeli's small village in the Sinaloa region of Mexico has been drained of its adult males, including her father, by the promise of El Norte, and taken over by some shadowy gangsters. Inspired by a screening of The Magnificent Seven at the local cinema, Nayeli decides to journey north herself, not to seek her fortune in "Los Yunaites" but to bring back some of the men who have abandoned their families and their country, thereby saving her beloved town. It would be hard to go wrong with such a premise, and Urrea rises to the occasion with a surprising, inventive, and very funny novel populated by an array of quirky characters. His fast-paced, accessible style has the crossover appeal of a John Steinbeck or Cormac McCarthy, while the politically charged undercurrent of the novel pulses with a compassionate vision of the future. Highly recommended.-Forest Turner, Suffolk Cty. House of Correction Lib., Boston (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.