Lyrical and poignant, this multigenerational story follows the lives of one Colombian family separated by borders.
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Why I love it
I fell hard for Engel's storytelling back in 2010 with her debut Vida and then again when I read The Veins of the Ocean. But this is Engel at her best. I read Infinite Country in one sitting, devouring the book from the very first sentence: "It was her idea to tie up the nun.”
From the get, I was invested in Talia, a teen living in Colombia who is attempting to break out of a correctional facility after being sentenced for an impulsive and arguably justified crime. Talia is on the run and on the clock, racing against time to catch a flight to reunite with her family in the United States. Told with tenderness and brilliance, this is a nuanced story of a resilient family from Colombia who are pulled apart by deportation.
This is the kind of book that allows you to see and feel the whole issues of immigration and displacement, offering an intimate perspective of an experience that touches and impacts us all. What I love about this novel is that the characters' choices, gestures, and yearnings defy the expectations of the reader. The landscapes, situations, and character dynamics are gritty, unpredictable, curious, and warm-hearted. Through one family’s incredible journey, and their commitment to each other, I am reminded of, if and when we allow it, the possibility of and capacity for love. I am so grateful for this book. It gave me all the feels.
At the dawn of the new millennium, Colombia is a country devastated by half a century of violence. Elena and Mauro are teenagers when they meet, their blooming love an antidote to the mounting brutality of life in Bogotá. Once their first daughter is born, and facing grim economic prospects, they set their sights on the United States.
They travel to Houston and send wages back to Elena’s mother, all the while weighing whether to risk overstaying their tourist visas or to return to Bogotá. As their family expands, and they move again and again, their decision to ignore their exit dates plunges the young family into the precariousness of undocumented status, the threat of discovery menacing a life already strained. When Mauro is deported, Elena, now tasked with caring for their three small children, makes a difficult choice that will ease her burdens but splinter the family even further.
Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself the daughter of Colombian immigrants and a dual citizen, gives voice to Mauro and Elena, as well as their children, Karina, Nando, and Talia—each one navigating a divided existence, weighing their allegiance to the past, the future, to one another, and to themselves. Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality for the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.
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