A REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK and INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
WINNER OF THE 2021 NEW AMERICAN VOICES AWARD, LONGLISTED FOR THE 2022 ANDREW CARNEGIE MEDAL, A 2022 DAYTON LITERARY PEACE PRIZE FINALIST, AND A NATIONAL ENDOWMENT OF THE ARTS “BIG READS” SELECTION
“A profound, beautiful novel.” —People * “Poignant.” —BuzzFeed * “A breathtaking story of the unimaginable prices paid for a better life.” —Esquire
This “heartbreaking portrait of a family dealing with the realities of migration and separation” (Time) is “a sweeping love story and tragic drama [and] an authentic vision of what the American Dream looks like in a nationalistic country” (Elle).
I often wonder if we are living the wrong life in the wrong country.
Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family.
How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We see them leave Bogotá with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro’s deportation and the family’s splintering—the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.
Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to all five family members as they navigate the particulars of their respective circumstances. Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country “is as much an all-American story as it is a global one” (Booklist, starred review).
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
An immigrant family split in two by deportation. It’s a situation that’s become such a common news story that many of us have become numb to it. But author Patricia Engel’s lyrical novel treats this subject with the singularity, nuance, and emotion it deserves. Mauro and Elena fell in love as teenagers in Bogotá, Colombia, but after their first child was born, the promise of better opportunities pulled them north to the United States. When Mauro is forced to return to Colombia years later, taking their youngest child with him, the bifurcated family keeps in touch over weekly video calls, giving each other updates as they navigate distinct challenges: backbreaking work and living on the margins of society in the United States and violence and hopelessness in Colombia. Infinite Country is a gut-wrenching and potent reminder that policies impact real families, but at its heart, it’s a beautiful love story.
Engel (The Veins of the Ocean) delivers an outstanding novel of migration and the Colombian diasporae. Talia breaks out of a reformatory for girls in Colombia with a single purpose: to reunite with her family in the U.S. Her parents, Elena and Mauro, fell in love as teenagers and had a child before fleeing from the violence, poverty, and uncertainty of Bogot and moving to Houston, where "their ears took in English, English, all the time English, and if they heard Spanish, it was with no accent like their own." After overstaying their visas, they have two more kids including Talia, the youngest, and move to various cities. But the family is separated when Mauro is deported for driving without a license. The narrative moves between past and present to chronicle Talia's travails first sent back to Colombia to live with her grandmother as a young girl, and later hitchhiking to Bogot to meet Mauro and the lives of Elena and Mauro, revealing the struggles of undocumented migrants and exploring "how people who do horrible things can be victims, and how victims can be people who do horrible things." Engel's sharp, unflinching narrative teems with insight and dazzles with a confident, slyly sophisticated structure. This is an impressive achievement.
This book does an amazing job at illustrating how life splinters along the way, and occasionally heals along those fissures. Not back to what it was but not entirely foreign either. Separation is told by way of the splintering of family. Physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The separation of the children, lovers, and the self. Like ashes spread across the land by wind.
The fragmentation is told in the splintering of a country. The Guerrillas, Narcos, the corrupt Government officials. Fracturing the country into the fiefdoms, the boundaries marked by bodies. The splintering of one nation into its many parts. It’s history no longer a single thread; the shards of which now represented by the Colombian history told In the stories of the first inhabitants and their erasure by the conquistadors.
The breakup is shown in the splintering of dreams, as illustrated by the realities of the migrants seeking something more in a land not their own. The soaring hopes of each family member brought down to earth by the bitter reality and ugliness of the world. Somehow though in the end, even with the reader’s own heart shattering along the way, redemption is found. A very moving and telling story that reminds me of all of the best parts of “Behold the Dreamers.”
A fine book written for those who have no idea what it is like to immigrate and immigration. A story of true love, told thru the eyes of a family.