“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.”Infinite Country – Patricia Engel
In Summary of Infinite Country
In Infinite Country, a Colombian family is torn apart by the struggles and distance of immigrating to the United States. Elena (the mother) ends up creating a new life, albeit under undocumented status, in Texas with two of her children after her husband (Mauro) is deported back to Colombia. Talia, their youngest of the three children, joins him and her grandmother in Colombia where they live isolated from the rest of their family for over fifteen years.
Switching between different perspectives of the family members, readers learn the backstory of Elena and Mauro’s love story before being torn apart by dreams of an unforgiving country, as well as the true horrors that the average Colombian experienced in a war-torn place. It is now up to Talia to see if she can take the opportunity to make her journey north to the United States in time, leaving behind the life she’s known for the unknown.
Warning: Sexual assault and animal abuse
|Prose is written to be descriptive, while not overdone and flowery||Slower moving plot to get to the climax, but it is character-driven|
|Characters are not surface-level; they are well characterized and meaningfully constructed||Some graphic moments may be disturbing (the animal abuse part may have been the unnecessary act; the wrongdoing could’ve come from a different event)|
|Presents a variety of perspectives through the different family members’ voices||Halfway through, two new narrators are introduced and the perspective begins to switch between 1st and 3rd person|
|Ties in some traditional Andean mythology fluidly and meaningfully|
“What was it about this country that kept everyone hostage to its fantasy?… A nation at war with itself, yet people still spoke of it as some kind of paradise.”
If you have never experienced the magic of a book that makes your heart want to implode, then get ready. Your time has come.
This brand new release (publishing date 3/2/2021!) and Reese’s Book Club pick for March 2021 is short, yet packs a punch right to your heart. Yes, this is another sad, character-driven rather than plot-driven book, but it is beautifully done. Despite never having encountered the same life experiences as the characters, I felt like I could still connect with them on an emotional level.
That, my friends, is when you know an author has accomplished a masterpiece.
I felt myself drawn to Talia and Mauro in Colombia, as their desires to fulfill the American Dream reunited with their family was heartbreaking. These characters came to life for me through Engel’s writing. The family members in America seemed trickier to connect with because they felt distant. How fitting, though, considering the circumstances between all of them.
My main critique of the text was the switch in perspective. Changing narrators per chapter is a common and popular technique in books, but once the chapters integrate first person narrators into the plot that has been third-person up until that point, things became more confusing. I had to take a break and do a mental shift; from there I was fine.
I know that the topic about documented versus undocumented people in America is considered a hot debate, as well as deportation and immigrant rights. Engel’s novel, Infinite Country, challenges these topics head-on with the harsh realities of such circumstances. Honestly, there are many difficult ethical issues to stomach in this one, so it’s not a light read. No matter what your views are on these topics, prepare to be mentally and morally challenged in some way.
Humans are humans, no matter where they are from. Considering different perspectives is worth your time. Pick up this book.
Infinite Country Book Information
- Published: 2021
- ISBN: 978-1982159467
- Format: Hardback (bought as an early release through Book of the Month, February 2021)
- Length: Approx. 191 pages