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Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9781982159467. 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 vio Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9781982159467. 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.


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Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9781982159467. 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 vio Alternate cover edition of ISBN 9781982159467. 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.

30 review for Infinite Country

  1. 5 out of 5

    Jenny Lawson

    This book is very good and I'm glad I read it. I had to put it down a lot because of the amount of sexual assault though and I wish I'd known to read it when I was feeling a little less brittle so I'm letting you know that. If that's a trigger for you then maybe wait and read it when you feel strong. This book is very good and I'm glad I read it. I had to put it down a lot because of the amount of sexual assault though and I wish I'd known to read it when I was feeling a little less brittle so I'm letting you know that. If that's a trigger for you then maybe wait and read it when you feel strong.

  2. 4 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    ‘We’re all migrants here on earth.’ Immigrants have always been the targets of aggression and political discourse. This has been all the more heightened in the past few years as the recent government administration doubled down on the deportations and family separations of previous presidents and weaponized fear of immigration for political gain. The framing has been atrocious and has only furthered violence upon people simply trying to make their way in the world. Infinite Country by Patricia En ‘We’re all migrants here on earth.’ Immigrants have always been the targets of aggression and political discourse. This has been all the more heightened in the past few years as the recent government administration doubled down on the deportations and family separations of previous presidents and weaponized fear of immigration for political gain. The framing has been atrocious and has only furthered violence upon people simply trying to make their way in the world. Infinite Country by Patricia Engel centers the political narrative as the human struggle of a family from Bogota as they experience the anxieties, aggressions and alienations of living in the United States without official documentation as if this somehow diminished their existence. This is a really important book that takes many of the major talking points about immigration and citizenship and delivers it in an engrossing narrative to shed light on the life of families such as the ones here. While the mechanics of the novel don’t always work and some of it reads as rather awkward shoehorning, I’m glad this book exists as it does a very good job of expressing it’s purpose. This would be an ideal book club choice to dive into the conversations we all need to be having and will hopefully direct readers to other books on the topic (I read this alongside the nonfiction work The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio and would highly recommend doing so as well). While clumsy in execution this is a heartfelt and emotional novel that tackles big important issues through a cast of well-crafted and rounded characters in a way that will really resonate in the hearts of readers. CW: family separation, rape, alcoholism, abuse. Patricia Engel should be applauded for giving voice to so many who suffer under the conditions expressed in this novel while also making it an accessible read that will help these voices reach a wide range of people. I suspect the target audience here is those who aren’t quite sure how to navigate what has become a very volatile political subject, but it is just as worthwhile for those who are already versed or sympathetic to these plight. In brief, Infinite Country tells the story of Mauro and Elena from their teenage romance to their life in the United States--entering with one infant child and having two more who will have dual citizenship--and then the long years after Mauro is deported. Framed in the present as the youngest child, Talia, as she escapes her imprisonment for her attack of violence (dude might have had it coming though) in order to catch her flight to live in the US with her mom (okay, yea, it’s a bit over-dramatic and corny but it works I suppose), most of the novel is told as an extended flashback to her parents saga. The story is chock full of all the setbacks and issues someone without paperwork might face in the United States while also examining the very real reasons one might overstay their visa despite having to face all these troubles. If there is one thing this novel really nails it is ensuring the reader will feel empathy for those in this situation and provides a lot of rational talking points. However, it manages to not be just a white gaze perspective as this book is undoubtedly a tender support to those who have faced these situations or grown up under parents who did, which I find a more valuable goal to achieve. I tend to really enjoy novels where the timeline shifts and past and present are threaded together for a greater effect than simple narrative telling, though the shifting of time in Infinite Country seems more to swirl and drift around. This is an important book, though often it feels self-aware of this intention and the style seems more a playacting of what an important book should sound without using the techniques for a greater intention. The meandering doesn’t really tease any reveals of information or keep a controlled heightening of emotional impact and tends to lead to a lot of repeated information and makes a relatively short novel feel longer than it needs to be. Though something could be said about how this experience is disorienting and there is a grabbing at identity in order to hold onto it. The abstraction of identity is very much felt throughout the book. For Talia, there is the removal of family--she was sent home (‘sent back like some DHL package’ she is chided) to be raised by her grandmother after her father was deported since the Elena would be unable to work if she had to find childcare for the then infant--and wanting to honor her homeland while still desiring to leave it. For Elena and Mauro there is the alienation of being both unseen and seen as a threat in the new land. ‘Emigration was a peeling away of the skin. An undoing. You wake each morning and forget where you are, who you are, and when the world outside shows you your reflection, it's ugly and distorted; you've become a scorned, unwanted creature.’ They rotate wanting to go home while also wanting to make this new life work which is weighed against the sacrifices they must make. This becomes even more crucial when realizing their potential deportations would separate them from the children who would be held behind due to their birthright citizenship. ‘I remember wondering what it must feel like to belong to American whiteness,’ Nando writes, ‘and to know you can do whatever you want because nobody you love is deportable.’ This grief is held by the entire family in the US and keeps them silent to wrongs done to them. Nando is beaten up by white kids at school and Elena is sexually assaulted by her boss, but they cannot go to anyone with this for fear Elena will be arrested for lack of citizenship. Police are to be feared, ICE is a constant threat, and all around them people such as themselves are being rounded up in raids at apartments or workplaces. They are stuck in lives where being invisible is their only defense and the children are taught to attain levels of passing to fit in with their white peers. It is an assault on identity, oppressing upon them in a country where people love to cite things such as their 15% Irish heritage on St. Patrick’s Day. ‘You can love the United States of Diasporica and still be afraid of it.’ The reasons for staying are some of the most complex moments in the book. In the US, there are work opportunities to send money home to Elena’s mother Perla. There is also the constant reminder of the political violence back home and the guerrilla attacks, many of which are threaded into the story through things characters hear on the news. Yet the novel never glorifies the United States and never makes it seem like much of a safe haven, a criticism levied at American Dirt last year. ‘Over there people walk into schools and buildings with weapons and kill everyone’ people say of the United States back in Bogota, ‘they’re not ever guerrilla or paramilitary. Just regular people.’ Beyond the constant fear of deportation and police, there are the attacks on POC and random gun violence. ‘What was it about this country that kept everyone hostage to it’s fantasy? The previous month, on its own soil, an American man went to his job at a plant and gunned down fourteen coworkers, and last spring alone there were our different school shootings. A nation at war with itself, yet people still spoke of it as some kind of paradise.’ That dissonance between the US as a place to make a new life but also as a threatening land is well navigated in this book and there are some excellent talking points here. Nando brings up how the fears have only elevated since the 2016 election as people were emboldened to aggress upon others due to the violent and racist rhetoric being pumped through conservative news networks and public figures. Life is never easy for any of these characters. Particularly Elena, and Engel makes a strong case for the intersections of oppression non-white women face. ‘The price of being able to work to provide for the rest of the family was their estrangement.’ Elena must make difficult decisions, such as not seeing her youngest daughter for a decade and a half, in order to continue to work low-wage, difficult jobs in order to keep everyone alive and fed. Engel argus how in a land where ‘family values’ is toted like a shotgun against progressive legislation it is increasingly normalized to spend your entire existence laboring even at the expense of family time and mental health, and simply staying alive means sacrifices of the things that make being alive worthwhile. This is exponentially worse for those without citizenship. It is really encouraging to see voices like these given the space to tell their stories. Later in the novel, however, the narrator abruptly reveals herself as one of the characters (a very much overlooked character until that point), which is cool, but the execution of it all didn’t quite work. Particularly as the voice shifted dramatically, which felt jarring, and then was followed up by two other separate chapters (non-sequential) with a first person narration from another character. It wasn’t very well smoothed into the story and ultimately felt shoehorned in to address other issues--albeit very important and really thought provoking ones--but coming so late into the novel and so out of character with the rest of the book it just didn’t quite work. Much of these sections were delivered like an afterthought, tacked on to ensure certain ideas and character stories weren’t left unmentioned though I’m still glad they were because these two narrators deliver some great lines and ultimately I feel the novel would have been better had their tone and voice been used for the entirety of the book. I almost wonder if this was a decision by the publisher asking why these characters weren’t addressed otherwise. ‘It’s not that the sum of these pages can tell everything about us.’ This book is a good start for those who would like to learn about these issues, though Engel makes sure to express that this is only the beginning of understanding. She has done an excellent job of cataloguing the issues, anxieties and violence faced by people like the family here and I’m hopeful that this book will reach the right hands who need to unlearn their biases and be aided on their way to activism and anti-racism. While a lot of the novel didn’t work for me (there is also a moment when a character wonders if a child with autism is a punishment for their bad behavior in life and...ehhhh don’t do that?), it is still quite good and important. I feel like there are other novels that this should lead to, particularly both Lost Children Archive and Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions by Valeria Luiselli, Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera, The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, The Ungrateful Refugee by Dina Nayeri or Conditional Citizens: On Belonging in America by Laila Lalami (here is a list of novels about South American immigration voices as well). Heartfelt, harrowing and deeply important, Patricia Engel has a story we should all listen to. 3.5/5 ‘And maybe there is no nation or citizenry; they’re just territories mapped in place of family, in place of love, the infinite country.’

  3. 5 out of 5

    Melissa

    I finished this book in tears because wow ... this book took my breath away. This story gripped my heart from the beginning. The way the author entwined Andean myths and legends of Colombia into the story made the story itself that much more special. I had to do a little research into these myths because I wasn’t familiar and I encourage you to do the same. The heartache and hope written in these pages is something that resonates with so many of us who have left or fled from our countries. Leavi I finished this book in tears because wow ... this book took my breath away. This story gripped my heart from the beginning. The way the author entwined Andean myths and legends of Colombia into the story made the story itself that much more special. I had to do a little research into these myths because I wasn’t familiar and I encourage you to do the same. The heartache and hope written in these pages is something that resonates with so many of us who have left or fled from our countries. Leaving people behind that you love not knowing if you’ll ever see them again is a trauma that scars you forever. Being separated by man made borders and papers that determine your worth is a pain that sets into your bones that you learn to live with but is always there as a constant reminder of what has been given up.

  4. 5 out of 5

    𝕕𝕒𝕟𝕖𝕣𝕪𝕤 ☾

    4.5 stars I am in awe. This is such an impactful, important, necessary book, and it’s done so well. Everyone should read this. Everyone. I can’t find a single things wrong with it; the only reason I didn’t rate it 5 stars is because I got a little confused at some parts (which is a problem with me and not the book, so I really have no reason to complain.) I am so glad I picked this for botm, I couldn’t imagine a better choice. Truly an amazing read. ꧁The Story꧂ So, yes, this is fiction. But this ty 4.5 stars I am in awe. This is such an impactful, important, necessary book, and it’s done so well. Everyone should read this. Everyone. I can’t find a single things wrong with it; the only reason I didn’t rate it 5 stars is because I got a little confused at some parts (which is a problem with me and not the book, so I really have no reason to complain.) I am so glad I picked this for botm, I couldn’t imagine a better choice. Truly an amazing read. ꧁The Story꧂ So, yes, this is fiction. But this type of story happens all the time in real life. It’s so refreshing to see it from all these different povs, and it was very eye-opening to read. I did get confused at many parts because I couldn’t figure out who was where and where people wanted to go, because I feel like it switched around a lot, but other than that I have no complaints. This book is very short, and I couldn’t put it down, so I pretty much read it in a single sitting. The entire time, I couldn’t predict what would happen next, I was trying to figure out what the best decision would be right alongside these characters. A warning, before you read this book. Infinite Country is not a happy read. It’s not a fluffy read, either. It deals with the struggles of life and immigration, and there are many parts that are brutal and raw. Also, this book comes with triggers, so beware. But overall, this story is one that needed to be told, and I think that the author did a fabulous job of telling it. ꧁The Characters꧂ Honestly, I don’t even know if I can call these characters “characters.” They feel too real, too much like real people, for me to call them that. Their story could honestly be a true story, it just happens not to be. These people, though. These characters, if that’s what you want to call them. They were so perfectly written. Not perfect, they were far from perfect. They were flawed, messy, like all humans are. But they were depicted so well, so accurately- I don’t even have words. I wouldn’t be surprised if they were modeled after people the author actually knew, that’s how real they felt. Speaking of feeling, I felt for them. I felt every emotion, every thought, the weight of every decision, alongside them. After reading this book, I feel like I know each and every one so well, especially Talia, who was an amazing MC. I loved her from the moment ⚠️spoiler⚠️ she poured boiling oil on a man because he did that to an innocent cat. ꧁The Writing꧂ It’s going to be very hard for me to describe the writing in this book. Because it’s not really like anything I have ever read. It’s beautiful, yes, but it doesn’t go on describing the color of a flower for 10 pages straight in an arrangement of smiles and metaphors. (Cmbyn I’m looking @ you.) It’s more beautiful in a sharp way; in a raw way. It’s beautiful, the words are beautiful, the way the words are used is beautiful, but it also cuts straight to the point. It actually gets to the point so fast that I would have to go back and read it over again because I missed who a person was or what was happening. I feel like this story could’ve been written in a really boring, dull way, but the way that this author wrote it brings life and color to the pages. It’s really an exquisite thing. ꧁Wrap-up꧂ In conclusion, don’t let my four-star rating fool you. I only put that because I’m dumb and missed a lot of stuff. It’s no problem with the book, I actually don’t think the book has any problems whatsoever. Please, do yourself a favor and read it when you can. It’s really important and impactful and just overall an incredible read.

  5. 4 out of 5

    AnnaLuce

    / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / “What was it about this country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy?” Infinite Country shares much in common with two of other novels by Patricia Engel, The Veins of the Ocean and Vida. While I do enjoy certain aspects of her storytelling—which at times reminds me of authors such as Alice Hoffman and Isabel Allende—I do think that her work is much too heavy on the telling. As with The Veins of the Ocean, this latest novel is very light on dialogues a / / / Read more reviews on my blog / / / “What was it about this country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy?” Infinite Country shares much in common with two of other novels by Patricia Engel, The Veins of the Ocean and Vida. While I do enjoy certain aspects of her storytelling—which at times reminds me of authors such as Alice Hoffman and Isabel Allende—I do think that her work is much too heavy on the telling. As with The Veins of the Ocean, this latest novel is very light on dialogues and mostly relies on recounting the various histories of various characters. Still, interspersed in their experiences are some lovely descriptions and observations. I particularly liked the role that myths play in the narrative. “When the world was new, the creatures that ruled were the jaguar, the snake, and the condor.” I loved the first chapter, which mostly focused on Talia, the youngest child of Elena and Mauro. Although she was born in America she was raised by her father and maternal grandmother in Bogotá. After an act of violence she is sent to a correctional facility run by nuns in the mountains of Colombia. Talia, however, is determined to leave as she has a flight to the U.S. to catch. As Talia journeys across Colombia, hitching rides here and there, readers learn of her parents first meeting and subsequent relationship. The two lived for awhile with Elena's mother but after the birth of their first daughter they relocate to America. After they 'overstay' their tourist visa they are forced to accept unfair wages and live in precarious places. Throughout their relationship Mauro struggles with alcoholism and depression, which drives them apart. “Emigration was a peeling away of the skin. An undoing. You wake each morning and forget where you are, who you are, and when the world outside shows you your reflection, it's ugly and distorted; you've become a scorned, unwanted creature.” Similarly to The Veins of the Ocean and Vida this novel shows the hard choices immigrant parents have to make: to live in a country which deems them 'alien' and in perpetual fear of being deported, or to return to their home country, knowing that there they will face a different struggle. In the last section of the novel the narrative includes chapters from the first point of view (until then the novel was told through a 3rd pov), specifically those of Talia's American-based siblings. These chapters did not add a lot to the narrative, and they didn't make these characters as fleshed out as Talia. Although Elena and Mauro's relationship and struggles are certainly poignant, that their stories were being 'recounted' in a rather passive way distanced me from them. The switch to a 1st person narration was somewhat jarring, and I did not care for the clichéd address to the reader (on the lines of: "You already know me. I'm the author of these pages"). The storyline would have benefited from focusing more on Talia. Although at first it seems to be hinted that she will play a big role in the story, she is pushed to the sidelines. While I appreciated the message of this novel, I was not as taken by its execution. If you enjoyed Crooked Hallelujah or you happen to have loved Engel's previous work, you should definitely consider picking this one up. “Leaving is a kind of death. You may find yourself with much less than you had before.”

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lisa

    [3.8] Infinite Country is the searing story of a family divided by borders and immigration status. In a mere 191 pages, Engel attempts to create an entire history of Mauro and Elena, her mother, and their children. To accomplish this, the author relies heavily on "telling." I wish Engel had stuck to the present which was so much more riveting than the pages of filler backstory! But even with its flaws, I won't soon forget this powerful novel. "Emigration was the peeling away of the skin. An undoi [3.8] Infinite Country is the searing story of a family divided by borders and immigration status. In a mere 191 pages, Engel attempts to create an entire history of Mauro and Elena, her mother, and their children. To accomplish this, the author relies heavily on "telling." I wish Engel had stuck to the present which was so much more riveting than the pages of filler backstory! But even with its flaws, I won't soon forget this powerful novel. "Emigration was the peeling away of the skin. An undoing. You wake each morning and forget where you are, who you are, and when the world outside shows you your reflection, it’s ugly and distorted; you’ve become a scorned, unwanted creature."

  7. 4 out of 5

    SheLovesThePages

    •Rating• ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars Must Read •Review• This is a book that needs to be read. Not because it's beautifully written or suspenseful or a page turner, but because it is important. We are so often bombarded with propaganda about the border and immigrants and documentation. It can be easy to dehumanize all of it. Reading Infinite Country reminds us that there are families and parents and grandparents and children involved in each and every case of citizenship. They all have stories and reasons for livi •Rating• ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐ 5 stars Must Read •Review• This is a book that needs to be read. Not because it's beautifully written or suspenseful or a page turner, but because it is important. We are so often bombarded with propaganda about the border and immigrants and documentation. It can be easy to dehumanize all of it. Reading Infinite Country reminds us that there are families and parents and grandparents and children involved in each and every case of citizenship. They all have stories and reasons for living in the United States.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Susan's Reviews

    If this author doesn't get a Pulitzer or a Nobel prize for this novel, then there is no justice in this world. Young Talia's predicament filled me with constant dread. The narrator's tone is dispassionate - almost a monotone. (We find out later that the narrator is related to Talia - no more spoilers here!) Most of the dialogue is contained in the body of the narration. What Talia or some other character says in conversation is reported in a paragraph and is not set apart. Normally, all this "tel If this author doesn't get a Pulitzer or a Nobel prize for this novel, then there is no justice in this world. Young Talia's predicament filled me with constant dread. The narrator's tone is dispassionate - almost a monotone. (We find out later that the narrator is related to Talia - no more spoilers here!) Most of the dialogue is contained in the body of the narration. What Talia or some other character says in conversation is reported in a paragraph and is not set apart. Normally, all this "telling and not showing" would distance us from Talia and the other characters. Instead, we watch the story unfold with rapt fascination as we are given tidbits of information, interspersed with observations and a few flashbacks. At one point, the focus of the novel switches from Talia to each of her family members, then back to the narrator. Many of the main characters live with the perpetual fear of being discovered, imprisoned and/or deported. Talia and her father will have to risk their lives, and potentially their freedom, to rejoin Talia's mother and her siblings back in America. Talia is torn: she loves her father, and is content to be living with him in Colombia, but she also wants to be with her mother and siblings. However, Talia seals her own fate when, one fateful afternoon, she is outraged as she witnesses a man torturing a cat and impulsively retaliates by doing to him what he did to the poor cat. (They should have given her a medal, not put her in reform school, but there, I have days when I like animals more than humans!) Talia has no choice but to leave her father and Colombia and rejoin her mother and siblings if she wants any semblance of a normal life. There is a word in Portuguese - saudade - which exactly describes the longing, the sadness and regret that Talia and her family feel: for their parent country, Colombia, and for the lost years with each other as a family. "Pining" is an inadequate translation of this word. There is an element of grief mixed in with the pining: "I will never see you again" is often a phrase that follows the pitiful words, "Ai que saudade"...... It is lamentation, regret, aching sorrow, and yes, a huge dose of pining. And what does the title of this book actually mean? Here is a clue: (and this might be an unwelcome spoiler for some of you: if so, skip this quote:) "... we watched our parents sway, finding each other's rhythm as if they'd never fallen out of step, as if the past fifteen years were only a dance interrupted waiting for the next song to play. I wondered about the matrix of separation and dislocation, our years bound to the phantom pain of a lost homeland, because now that we are together again that particular hurt and sensation that something is missing has faded. And maybe there is no nation or citizenry; they're just territories mapped in place of a family, in place of love, the infinite country." I had to really ponder the interesting use of the word "matrix" here. If we take "matrix" to mean "the environment in which something develops," then you have to marvel at how economically Engel managed to convey her thoughts: "family" is the infinite country - "family" is what makes a home. Perhaps I am reading too much into this sentence, but, as a summing up, it does make sense. The last thing I want to say about this beautifully written, heartrending exposé of man's inhumanity to man is something I came to realize when I worked one summer for Immigration Canada. We humans have waged wars and committed atrocities in defense of our borders and our belief that we humans somehow own this land, this earth. I came to believe that no one should have the right to prohibit another human being from wandering and exploring this earth. In a better version of this world, we should be free to roam like the birds in the sky and the fish in the sea. Talia's father expressed it more eloquently: "The more he stared at those borders on maps, the more absurd it seemed that outsiders succeeded in declaring possession of these lands with national lines, as if Creation could ever be divided and owned." Everyone should read this book! My great thanks to the author, publisher and NetGalley for an ARC of this marvelous book in exchange for an honest review.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Traci at The Stacks

    The writing in this book is really good. The way she manipulates language to craft the book, and in so few pages, is really impressive. I enjoyed reading the book and was curious what would happen in the end. I like the ways she complicated our ideas of family and love and home and belonging and grief (so much grief). There is also some oversimplification. The book felt fairytale like. Archetypal characters. Clear good and evil. Etc. I would've liked more plot, or maybe the tempo wasn't quiet ri The writing in this book is really good. The way she manipulates language to craft the book, and in so few pages, is really impressive. I enjoyed reading the book and was curious what would happen in the end. I like the ways she complicated our ideas of family and love and home and belonging and grief (so much grief). There is also some oversimplification. The book felt fairytale like. Archetypal characters. Clear good and evil. Etc. I would've liked more plot, or maybe the tempo wasn't quiet right for me, but none the less I felt things.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Lauren

    Wow. This small novel has a powerful kick. A story of immigration, family, love, and loss.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Jennifer

    So heavy on the political innuendos. I want to be entertained while reading and this book felt like the authors compilation of complaints and grips played out through her characters thoughts and actions. I wish Patricia had told us more about Talia's life and journey. So heavy on the political innuendos. I want to be entertained while reading and this book felt like the authors compilation of complaints and grips played out through her characters thoughts and actions. I wish Patricia had told us more about Talia's life and journey.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Andrea

    3.5★, rounded up for the introduction to Muisca folklore. This book was one that really caught my eye on one of those most anticipated lists at new year, although I haven't read this author before. It largely met my expectations, apart from a minor issue that I will get to. The unexpected pleasure though, was to learn of the gods and legends of the Muisca people of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense in the Colombian Andes, sprinkled throughout the contemporary story. As I understand it, this is a hallm 3.5★, rounded up for the introduction to Muisca folklore. This book was one that really caught my eye on one of those most anticipated lists at new year, although I haven't read this author before. It largely met my expectations, apart from a minor issue that I will get to. The unexpected pleasure though, was to learn of the gods and legends of the Muisca people of the Altiplano Cundiboyacense in the Colombian Andes, sprinkled throughout the contemporary story. As I understand it, this is a hallmark of Engel's writing, so I plan to seek out her earlier novels in the hope of reading more accessible Latino lore. At 15 years of age, US citizen Talia has been brought up in Colombia by her maternal grandmother and with the sporadic help of her father, Mauro. She loves them both dearly, but after her grandmother dies, she's looking forward to joining her mother and siblings in the USA. However, actions taken in a moment of rage have landed her in a distant girls' reform school, at risk of missing her flight 'home'. While resourceful Talia makes her way back to Bogotá, we learn the story of Mauro and Elena, and find out how this family came to be split up across continents. These story threads alternate in a fairly conventional manner for the first two-thirds of the book. Initially I thought Mauro & Elena would be mainly 'backstory', provided for context to Talia's situation, but in fact for me they were the meat in the sandwich to Talia's bread. Growing up through the worst of Colombia's civil war and social unrest, as teenagers they meet and fall in love. Mauro has seen a lot worse than Elena though, relatively sheltered as she has been in Bogotá, so despite the love they share for their country, it is Mauro whose desire for a better life propels them to leave with their first child, Karina. Although they arrive in the US by plane and with valid visas, their migration experience is not an easy one. Trying to do their best for their steadily growing family, they reach a point where a decision needs to be made about whether to return to Colombia or to stay and fall under the radar with no documentation. It is as the two threads begin to converge that my problem arose. There was a change of perspective that I found quite jarring. Up until that point it had been a smooth, third-person view, and suddenly we get first-person. But who is it?? OK, it's Karina, but then it's Nando... The reason for the change became clear towards the end, but that didn't make it any less clumsy. As I said at the start, it was just a minor thing and didn't totally spoil the reading experience for me. Although I wasn't wowed by this book as many other readers have been, I would recommend it as a good read, if not a must read. With thanks to NetGalley and Avid Reader Press for the opportunity to read and review a digital ARC.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    This was a gut-wrenching book that captivated me from the very first sentence. The story Engel tells is so important, because it is the story of so many families living among and around us, one that is more comfortable for us to ignore. But we need to understand that policy has consequences that are deeply felt by real people, and we must resist holding debates on immigration and borders and national security on the basis of numbers alone. Because those numbers represent lives. Mother and father This was a gut-wrenching book that captivated me from the very first sentence. The story Engel tells is so important, because it is the story of so many families living among and around us, one that is more comfortable for us to ignore. But we need to understand that policy has consequences that are deeply felt by real people, and we must resist holding debates on immigration and borders and national security on the basis of numbers alone. Because those numbers represent lives. Mother and fathers, daughters and sons. Families. Infinite Country is the story of one of those families. Engel's language is vivid, infused with a mythical quality. The novel's plot is compelling, weaving back and forth between multiple characters and timelines, all driving towards answering the question: Will this family ever be whole again? Yet those who read for characters over plot will find themselves equally satisfied. Engel gives voice to each of the family members, and she presents them in the fullness of their humanity with tenderness and compassion. My one critique of the novel is that the revelation that Karina was the author felt a bit gimmicky. I think it was important to include her voice, as well as Nando's, to show that the choices that parents make for the sake of giving their children a brighter future have consequences that they can never fully understand, and the challenges of living in the US as an immigrant are different for the second generation. But I wished Karina's voice had simply been incorporated into the narrative in the same way that the threads of Talia and her parents were woven together, or even kept in the first person, but without attributing the rest of the novel to her. Perhaps if the concept of Karina as the chronicler of her family's history had been introduced earlier, it wouldn't have bothered me as much, but coming as late as it did, it felt more like a trick. Still, that critique is minor and pales in comparison to the richness of the rest of the novel's depth and beauty. 4.5 stars, but rounding up to 5 without hesitation.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance

    "I often wonder if we are living the wrong life in the wrong country." And that's one of the thoughts that went through my head all through this story. What does it mean to belong to a place in which you live? How important is it to respect the laws regarding borders when your family is split apart? How can you make a place your home? What is worth risking to be able to be together with those you love? And why does it have to be this way? The story centers on five members of a family, and each get "I often wonder if we are living the wrong life in the wrong country." And that's one of the thoughts that went through my head all through this story. What does it mean to belong to a place in which you live? How important is it to respect the laws regarding borders when your family is split apart? How can you make a place your home? What is worth risking to be able to be together with those you love? And why does it have to be this way? The story centers on five members of a family, and each gets a chance to take center stage and tell his story. There are the parents, both born in Colombia, in a time of war and violence there. There are the three children, one born in Colombia, and two born in the US after the parents go there for more opportunity. There are no heroes in this story, no Edens in which to live, no people who are able to follow all the rules, and that's one of the deepest, truest parts of this book. There's an intermingling of the story with the old tales of Colombia, too, and that adds much depth to the book. This is one of those stories that gets better and better, and richer and richer the more you reflect upon it.

  15. 4 out of 5

    CJ Alberts

    Infinite Country is a multi generational family saga about a Colombian family with mixed citizenship status. The story is told through different family members perspectives, time periods, and Andean mythology. The heartache and hope interwoven into this fractured family due to the US’s atrocious immigration policies was so visceral. I found the writing about displacement, not only physical displacement but of a spiritual variety as well, so acute and searing. Alcoholism! Landscapes! Indigenous wi Infinite Country is a multi generational family saga about a Colombian family with mixed citizenship status. The story is told through different family members perspectives, time periods, and Andean mythology. The heartache and hope interwoven into this fractured family due to the US’s atrocious immigration policies was so visceral. I found the writing about displacement, not only physical displacement but of a spiritual variety as well, so acute and searing. Alcoholism! Landscapes! Indigenous wisdom! Love!

  16. 5 out of 5

    Never Without a Book

    4.5 Stars. This books can easily be completed in one sitting. Something about the writing had be hooked. More thoughts to come.

  17. 4 out of 5

    lisa

    Last year there was a book published that claimed to be an authentic experience of people who immigrate to the United States from Central America. This book was written by a white non-immigrant woman, edited by a white non-immigrant woman, and raised objections from people who had had actually lived through immigration and discrimination in the United States, and felt that the book did not reflect their experiences, experiences they were not given a space to write about because of the white inst Last year there was a book published that claimed to be an authentic experience of people who immigrate to the United States from Central America. This book was written by a white non-immigrant woman, edited by a white non-immigrant woman, and raised objections from people who had had actually lived through immigration and discrimination in the United States, and felt that the book did not reflect their experiences, experiences they were not given a space to write about because of the white institutions who thought their stories wouldn't sell. This created quite a controversy especially from the "Don't you know the definition of fiction?" crowd, who don't understand the insidiousness of not seeing own voices stories because of the white gatekeepers who only publish things with the "Don't you know the definition of fiction?" cyborgs in mind. In the meantime, Patricia Engel was quietly writing a novel about one Colombian family's experience with moving to the United States, and living in the shadows as undocumented immigrants. And this book will be everything to the world that the previously mentioned book said it would be. Infinite Country shifts from being the story of a young woman running from a jail in Columbia, to being a story of a young couple who gamble everything they have on making a life in the United States, to reflections from a young woman on what living in the margins has done to herself and her family. Although it's a short book, it's a slow story that has the feel of an epic. The lives of Mauro and Elena are told from their childhoods onwards and we watch as they and their children grow. Throughout the story Mauro tells and retells the stories of the pre-Spanish people to comfort himself and his family, and this is part of what this book a shining jewel for me. I know almost nothing about present day Columbia, and even less about Columbia's Indigenous people, so it was nice to read these stories. Also, descriptions of Columbia from the 1980s through the early 2000s were worrying to read about during the insurrection events of last week. Unlike last year's badly written novel about immigration, this one gave a realistic look at a family's decision to fly to Texas and then overstay their visa, and the consequences of their decision. The book is careful to relay a story without much judgement, and to honestly portray the communities that form to help and hinder people who overstay their visas. While there isn't much detail about the very complicated immigration laws, there were several mentions of reapplying for visas (although everyone knows that once an overstay is on your record you don't have another chance to enter the US legally). Most of all what I took from this story is how families (particularly children) are affected. Mauro and Elena not only have to navigate a new country as newly arrived immigrants, they later have to learn to navigate their entire lives separately. Their children must learn this too, and this leads us to Talia's fateful crime that could hinder her reentry to the United States. No spoilers, but I was stunned by the ending. I honestly did not see it coming, and the unexpectedness of it left me in weepy tears through the last ten pages. This is such a great book, and I only wish figures like Don Winslow and Oprah were as crazy enthusiastic about this book as they were about last year's piece of garbage.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Geraldine (geraldinereads)

    This book is about a family that is not only separated by borders but by their immigration status. Mauro has been deported and is living with Talia in Colombia. Meanwhile, Elena is struggling to live in the United States with their two other children, Nando and Karina. The writing is beautiful! I couldn't put it down not only because of the writing but for the story. The story was extremely relatable for someone like me. My parents also immigrated to the US when I was a baby so this one was hard This book is about a family that is not only separated by borders but by their immigration status. Mauro has been deported and is living with Talia in Colombia. Meanwhile, Elena is struggling to live in the United States with their two other children, Nando and Karina. The writing is beautiful! I couldn't put it down not only because of the writing but for the story. The story was extremely relatable for someone like me. My parents also immigrated to the US when I was a baby so this one was hard hitting. If you or your family came to the US as an immigrant(s), this will definitely hit you to the core. Brace yourself because this is a story that will stay with you for a very long time. [I previously gave this 4 stars. After having a month to think about this book, I've decided to bump up my rating to 5 stars! I've been talking about it so much lately and I can't stop thinking about it🥺] A special thank you to Avon Reader Press for reaching out after I finished the book and sending me a finished copy! I'm so happy I get to own a physical copy of this book! Although this is a really short book, it's definitely the type of book I'd like to read again. Thank you to the Avon Reader Press and NetGalley for the e-arc!

  19. 5 out of 5

    April Gain

    *Note: I received a DRC from the publishers for professional reasons. I’m including feedback on personal accounts honestly and these opinions are my own* What would you give up to give your children a better life? How do you choose between pieces of your family? What does it mean to carry the weight of someone else’s absence? To say Patricia Engel wrote an immigration novel crystallizes the core of this book but it also deeply undersells it. This is an honest, unflinching portrait of how the immi *Note: I received a DRC from the publishers for professional reasons. I’m including feedback on personal accounts honestly and these opinions are my own* What would you give up to give your children a better life? How do you choose between pieces of your family? What does it mean to carry the weight of someone else’s absence? To say Patricia Engel wrote an immigration novel crystallizes the core of this book but it also deeply undersells it. This is an honest, unflinching portrait of how the immigration system is designed to destroy families and the difficult decisions and ramifications that accompany both staying and leaving one’s homeland. The family at the center of the narrative is of mixed status-undocumented parents with one child born in Colombia and two born in the U.S. This is an incredibly common condition in immigrant families and something that is inadequately addressed in the greater conversation. I think everyone who read and praised American Dirt needs to experience this novel as well, as there is a great deal more insight into this conversation that is stunningly portrayed in the prose. Engel has elegantly, beautifully rendered the impact of these stresses on the different members of the family. Although it’s easy to want to scream at the characters for some of the choices they make, by the end you only want to see them all fulfilled, the harm plucked from their souls, and warmth put into their lives. It also contains as many amazing insights into life, love, and the nature of humanity as are expected with any of Engel’s well-considered novels. For example, from the viewpoint of wife and mother, Elena: “Only women knew the strength it took to love men through their evolution to who they thought they were supposed to be.” Or this general observation: “People say drugs and alcohol are the greatest and most persuasive narcotics-the elements most likely to ruin a life. They’re wrong. It’s love.” Always one of my favorite aspects of Engel’s writing, these observations are just as vividly displayed in Infinite Country, perhaps even more so. This is a novel to fall in love with, to highlight, and keep quotations close to your heart. It is a story that will overwhelm you and an ending you’ll want to read over and over.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Morelia (Strandedinbooks)

    Reading this felt like I was getting a glimpse into my family’s life. My parents came to the U.S. in the late 80’s and have built a life here since. My mom always talks about her birthplace (small town in Michoacán) with such love, I too often look around me when I’m there and think “this? This is the place you’ve told me so much about?” I know that one day my mom will want to finally lay in Mexican soil, but a part of me will always be selfish and want her to stay here forever. With me, in the pl Reading this felt like I was getting a glimpse into my family’s life. My parents came to the U.S. in the late 80’s and have built a life here since. My mom always talks about her birthplace (small town in Michoacán) with such love, I too often look around me when I’m there and think “this? This is the place you’ve told me so much about?” I know that one day my mom will want to finally lay in Mexican soil, but a part of me will always be selfish and want her to stay here forever. With me, in the place where we’ve created a life and have shared/seen our number of hardships and joy. Here, where I’ve seen my mom work her ass off and sacrifice so much because a life on American soil is what she wanted for us when my eldest sister was born and she was damn determined to see it happen. My parents are very fortunate to have since been able to live here as a U.S. citizen and resident, and I don’t know what I’d do without them or how to continue building this life they’ve set up for us here many decades ago. I love them with my entire heart and it often breaks knowing that families are still being separated today, some never getting the chance to have that final embrace, to live within that familial love. ‘Infinite Country’ brought up so many emotions for me while reading, and I encourage you to sit and read it for yourself. I wish everyone could get comfortable with the idea that family really is everything to some of us and we all have the space — deserve the space — in this world, in this country, to make it without marking us the enemy. I hug this book to my chest and I know my mom and dad are in there. I’ll be thinking about you for a long while, dear book. *TW: animal cruelty, rape, racism, deportation

  21. 4 out of 5

    James Harrod

    I don’t often get sucked in by a beautiful cover but when I came across this arc, I was really feeling it. Then I read the synopsis and I was all in. Happy to report I was not disappointed, this book was amazing. It is the saga of one Colombian family through two generations. Each character is fully realized and memorable. Particularly Talia who is the youngest in the family. The story begins with her escape from a Catholic reform school and from that point on I was IN IT. The book breaks your h I don’t often get sucked in by a beautiful cover but when I came across this arc, I was really feeling it. Then I read the synopsis and I was all in. Happy to report I was not disappointed, this book was amazing. It is the saga of one Colombian family through two generations. Each character is fully realized and memorable. Particularly Talia who is the youngest in the family. The story begins with her escape from a Catholic reform school and from that point on I was IN IT. The book breaks your heart a few times, but in the end is so rewarding.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Leslie - Shobizreads

    If I could press this book into everyone’s hands to read it, I would. This is an emotional and introspective look at how and why families decide to move to another country and what closed borders, illegal immigrant status and deportation does to a family unit and everyone involved. The author beautifully and poignantly explores the violence, oppression and racism that both America and Columbia both contain - and the parallel lives with half the family living in the US and half still in Columbia. Th If I could press this book into everyone’s hands to read it, I would. This is an emotional and introspective look at how and why families decide to move to another country and what closed borders, illegal immigrant status and deportation does to a family unit and everyone involved. The author beautifully and poignantly explores the violence, oppression and racism that both America and Columbia both contain - and the parallel lives with half the family living in the US and half still in Columbia. This book broke my heart, fired me up and made me angry that this isn’t just a fiction story, this is still real life for so many now in 2021. I wanted to highlight so much of this book - her words were so profound in describing this experience for the family. A must read Trigger Warnings: Immigration, Separation of family, Deportation, Sexual abuse

  23. 5 out of 5

    Ari Levine

    3.5, rounded down. An emotionally raw narrative of a Colombian immigrant family in the US (undocumented parents, American-born children) divided by a decade-plus of deportation. Heartbreaking without being maudlin or manipulative, with characters who are imperfect as hell, dealing with addiction and abuse, but whose emotional lives rang true. Engel deftly weaves twenty years of political context, showing how multiple forms of violence and exploitation (state-sponsored, organized, interpersonal) 3.5, rounded down. An emotionally raw narrative of a Colombian immigrant family in the US (undocumented parents, American-born children) divided by a decade-plus of deportation. Heartbreaking without being maudlin or manipulative, with characters who are imperfect as hell, dealing with addiction and abuse, but whose emotional lives rang true. Engel deftly weaves twenty years of political context, showing how multiple forms of violence and exploitation (state-sponsored, organized, interpersonal) in both Colombia and America have warped the lives of five ordinary people. But the magic-realist folkloric elements felt forced to me, and the thriller-ish pace of the escape-from-prison framing narrative provided tension that felt calculated and overblown. And a very clumsy reveal of the narrator's identity, as well as a tacked-on plot resolution in its final pages, delivered very little payoff. Engel is a talented writer, and reading this was an exercise in radical compassion, but the visible seams and scars of its construction were a contrived and unnecessary distraction.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marcy Dermansky

    Patricia Engel's Infinite Country reminds me why I read fiction. There is this issue right now about immigration. It's a big one. Important. But with this novel we have the story of a novel, and I am in the head of Talia, a fifteen year old girl who was sent away from her mother and siblings when she was a baby because her mother couldn't work and take care of her. And her sister, who stays with her mother, but can't compete with the status of the lost daughter that was given away. I am in the h Patricia Engel's Infinite Country reminds me why I read fiction. There is this issue right now about immigration. It's a big one. Important. But with this novel we have the story of a novel, and I am in the head of Talia, a fifteen year old girl who was sent away from her mother and siblings when she was a baby because her mother couldn't work and take care of her. And her sister, who stays with her mother, but can't compete with the status of the lost daughter that was given away. I am in the head of Elena, the mother, living in a shared room, with two little kids as a maid whose employers feel free to abuse her, make her work with wages, who does not get to go home and see her mother. And more. Engel creates people that we love and care about and are richer for knowing about and also knowing.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Sara Kaner

    This was a solid 4 stars, and maybe even 4.5 stars for me. It was a very short/quick read, which I always appreciate. But what really stood out to me was the storytelling - I was so invested in making it to the end to see how it all played out. There were alternating points of view throughout, which I enjoyed BUT also made it sometimes hard for me to keep up with whose perspective I was reading from - this is the only reason this wasn’t a 5-star read for me.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Pickle Farmer

    A book with an admirable cause, to focus on immigrants and the plight of deportation and familial separation. I liked the use of Colombian mythology, and I found the choice to rarely use dialogue interesting (it reminded me of Claudia Hernandez's Slash and Burn, a novel that deals with similar themes). To me, this book often read more like an essay or reportage rather than a novel. And maybe that was its ultimate goal and purpose, which is fine. In contrast to books by, say, Margarita García Rob A book with an admirable cause, to focus on immigrants and the plight of deportation and familial separation. I liked the use of Colombian mythology, and I found the choice to rarely use dialogue interesting (it reminded me of Claudia Hernandez's Slash and Burn, a novel that deals with similar themes). To me, this book often read more like an essay or reportage rather than a novel. And maybe that was its ultimate goal and purpose, which is fine. In contrast to books by, say, Margarita García Robayo or Pilar Quintana, I understood the goal of this book as a) communicate a message and b) set characters about on a path that makes very specific points about social issues (how immigrants are abused, especially women; the cruelty of the system, etc.). I agree 100% with everything the book is saying about immigration, so maybe the target audience for this is people who need to be convinced. But I would argue that novels like "La perra" or "Tiempo muerto" (a book that is also about Colombians in the US) are also very effective at conveying their respective messages. Another good contrast to this is Valeria Luiselli's "Lost Children Archive", which as the years go by I'm beginning to respect more and more, in terms of its artistic choices to narrate a story about migration via elusiveness and indirectness, while still articulating a clearly defined moral position. (view spoiler)[I also found the happy ending too convenient, though I suppose the characters had suffered enough, and deserved some joy. (hide spoiler)] Overall, though, this is an interesting and worthwhile contribution to fiction in English about Colombia. Thanks to Netgalley and the publishers for an ARC.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Bill Silva

    This is a quiet, unassuming but ultimately devastating novel that--without sensationalism or melodrama--depicts the chaos and heartache of a family displaced and torn apart by US policies and attitudes concerning undocumented immigrants as well as the ambivalence and doubts of the immigrants themselves, both in their home country and in the United States. In less than 200 pages, the author conveys a full and nuanced portrait of each of her characters and what gives their lives meaning and purpos This is a quiet, unassuming but ultimately devastating novel that--without sensationalism or melodrama--depicts the chaos and heartache of a family displaced and torn apart by US policies and attitudes concerning undocumented immigrants as well as the ambivalence and doubts of the immigrants themselves, both in their home country and in the United States. In less than 200 pages, the author conveys a full and nuanced portrait of each of her characters and what gives their lives meaning and purpose. There is an unavoidable comparison between this novel and American Dirt--this is the much better book by far, in its writing, its authenticity, its narrative structure and voice, and the impact it makes on the reader.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Bob Hughes

    Starting with what is possibly one of the greatest opening lines to a book ("It was her idea to tie up the nun"), 'Infinite Country' goes through the lives of a family as they chart their journeys to the US. From parents who have overstayed their visas and live in constant fear of deportation, to two of their children, born in the US and therefore legal citizens, but whose lives would similarly be upended by deportation, to the third child Talia, who is a fugitive, escaping both the consequences Starting with what is possibly one of the greatest opening lines to a book ("It was her idea to tie up the nun"), 'Infinite Country' goes through the lives of a family as they chart their journeys to the US. From parents who have overstayed their visas and live in constant fear of deportation, to two of their children, born in the US and therefore legal citizens, but whose lives would similarly be upended by deportation, to the third child Talia, who is a fugitive, escaping both the consequences of her crime and the violence that surrounds her, the ideas of changing country and of legal vs illegal suffuse every page of the book. As, indeed, does Trump's legacy, albeit not by name. There is a reference to 'the election' and how the boys in the class suddenly start marching around with a new confidence, spouting the same lines about building a wall, and about Mexicans being rapists. This starts to plant in the characters' minds that the US, for all it is held up to be as a place of refuge and freedom, is just as violent, if not more so, than the Colombia they leave behind, and there is a real tussle with whether home is something you can choose or even if you ever truly leave home. There is a particularly well-handled moment within this where one of the children is excited about perhaps having a chance with a girl in his class, but it is the Trumpist chants of the boys that ultimately interrupt this, and he observes that the object of his affections, a white American girl, seems bound to those boys, as if she cannot speak out against them for some reason. And this theme of silence also seems to permeate this book. Spare sentences speak of the son being beaten up by the same group of boys after he speaks to a teacher about what they have been saying to him, and nothing happens. Talia stays silent, revealing little about her story. The family must also stay silent, choose which stories not to tell, and which ones might save them, knowing that to get it wrong is to risk deportation. Woven throughout are also little tidbits of information about Andean myths and tales, of giant condors protecting the land. The timelines occasionally jumped around a little for me, and so I would sometimes have to go back a few pages to realise where everything now was, but there is a lot to appreciate and wonder at in this deceptively short novel. Thank you to Net Galley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Sami Kay

    *Thank you to Avid Reader Press for providing an advanced reader copy of this book for professional purposes. All opinions are my own!* This book hit hard. And it was grim a lot. And I only smiled a few times. But it's totally worth the read, 1000%. It's one of those stories that you'll think about for a long time. As someone white presenting who has never had to go through any sort of process of emigration, it was really stark seeing that these characters had it hanging over their heads every day *Thank you to Avid Reader Press for providing an advanced reader copy of this book for professional purposes. All opinions are my own!* This book hit hard. And it was grim a lot. And I only smiled a few times. But it's totally worth the read, 1000%. It's one of those stories that you'll think about for a long time. As someone white presenting who has never had to go through any sort of process of emigration, it was really stark seeing that these characters had it hanging over their heads every day of their lives like a big cloud. This family's struggle had you rooting for them, and at the same time had you shaking your head at what a fucking nightmare the US has always been. Talia wants to leave Columbia for America and has accepted the idea that if she leaves, she will never be able to come back. I really liked the questions that are raised around this decision; she says she wants to leave because of the violence and corruption of Columbia's government, but really, how much better are the United States? People walk into grocery stores, elementary schools, nightclubs, and just start shooting everyone? And the politicians are just as corrupt here, they are just more polite about it. Also, the writing is just fantastic. It's smooth, and the prose is succinct. When we were deciding if this would be a book we would carry, the question that came up was about Engel herself: is she a person of color? Or is she a white person capitalizing on "trauma porn" (*cough cough* American Dirt *cough cough*)? But we were pleased to find that she is a Columbian-American writer. I absolutely think you should read this book, even if it's just so I can talk to you about it because it's going to be stuck in my head for a long, long time to come.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Samantha | thisbookbelongsto.sw

    * Thanks to Netgalley and Avid Reader Press for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review * One family's story of living undocumented. This novel spans three generations of a family as they are split between Colombia and the United States. The juxtaposition of the struggles in Colombia versus the struggles in the US give this novel a sense of uneasiness that echos through the plot. This book offers insight into just one family's experience, and how they found themselves torn between tw * Thanks to Netgalley and Avid Reader Press for an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review * One family's story of living undocumented. This novel spans three generations of a family as they are split between Colombia and the United States. The juxtaposition of the struggles in Colombia versus the struggles in the US give this novel a sense of uneasiness that echos through the plot. This book offers insight into just one family's experience, and how they found themselves torn between two countries, neither of which ever feel like a safe haven. Knowing that this family is one of many, only strengthens the themes and message. I was invested in these characters and their stories, but at a certain point, the narrative tone changes and everything started to hit much harder, taking it from a 3 star to a 5 star read. I'd recommend this to fans of (or as supplementary reading to) The Fruit of the Drunken Tree.

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