I’ll be honest, I have very little experience with short reads. I either go for the regular sized novels or the chunky books! But a slim thin read? It’s a rare occurrence in my reading journey! But they are extremely interesting to me. To pack so much story in such a short amount of pages…it takes skill and I am very happy to say that Patricia Engel has that skill!
I want to thank Avid Reader Press for sending me an ARC to read.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
Pub Date: March 2, 2021
Publisher: Avid Reader Press
For readers of Valeria Luiselli and Edwidge Danticat, an urgent and lyrical novel about a Colombian family fractured by deportation, offering an intimate perspective on an experience that so many have endured—and are enduring right now.
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.
This book is a punch to the gut in the absolutely best way possible.
It may be short, but my oh my oh my is it a powerful and profound read. The intensity and suspense hooked me from the very beginning and didn’t let me go until the final turn of the page. Many people talk about books keeping them on the edge of their seats…and this is one of those books! This book had my heart thumping and blood running! It was a rush and I loved every second of it! Reading about this family’s journey to reuniting themselves across borders where violence and poverty trail them in all corners is incredibly moving. It’s a story that really fastened itself into my heart and refused to let go.
Engel’s writing is stunning and completely immersive! First and foremost, I loved how she wove timelines together. The back and forth narrative was elegant and never once was I lost between past and present. And to add to the beauty, Engel weaves Andean mythology into the thoughts, words and experiences of these characters. Tales of love, escape, resistance, faith and spirit keep these characters connected to each other across time and space. It’s beautiful. It’s a narration that lets us readers be gentle companions as Mauro, Elena, Talia, Karina and Nando experience their joys, pain, triumphs, and worries in their journey to reuniting.
This book portrays the daily plights of undocumented migrants and mixed-status families in a heartfelt and honest manner. It evoked the emotional and physical toll it takes on so many people who leave their homes in the search of more opportunities for their families. It talks about the tolls of distance and time. It takes on the fears estrangement and alienation. It’s a story that is permeated with the sense of fear, resilience, hope and strength it takes for families to make these decisions and take on this journey. And I have to add that it reminded me much of the stories I heard of family members and friends who made similar choices.
My favourite aspect of the novel was definitely how this story comes to question the American Dream. The story challenged whether the idea of a promise land in the US or anywhere exists. This story makes us look at the brutal truths of our worlds and the nations we inhabit. It’s not as simple as one country is horrific and the other is safe. It’s a matter that we live in a world where there are so many histories both past and present that are full of violence and struggle as much as they have their moments of beauty and opportunity! It’s a matter of discovering your sense of belonging in yourself and your family more so than a place.
The ending. Oh, when the final sentence finally clicked, tears burst into my eyes! I’m not kidding, my eyes really did burst into floods at that last sentence! If I could, I would give it a thousand rounds of applause!
Rating: 5 / 5 Stars
Let me know what you think! What are some of your favourite short, but powerful reads? Or short reads in general? Are you considering picking up this book?