This book is so different than any book I’ve ever read! Infinite Country an amazing Own Voices book from writer Patricia Engel, who is the daughter of Columbian immigrants. The story centers around a Columbian family torn apart by their mixed immigration status, which gave me a really cool opportunity to learn a new perspective and read a powerful account of what it means to be undocumented in this country.
Quick synopsis: Seeped in Andean mythology, Infinite Country follows a Colombian family between continents, as parents Elena and Mauro fall in love as teens in Colombia, seek a home and expand their family in the U.S., watch their family being torn apart due to their mixed status, and ultimately seek refuge and home together again.
Although this book was less than 200 pages, it still managed to read like a 500+ page epic. While it was a quick read (not something typically associated with an epic), it was so full of detail, both in terms of character development and plot. Engel’s writing was lyrical and evocative, making me feel each emotion that the characters were experiencing and immersing me as a reader in settings both beautiful and brutal. Additionally, Engel’s writing managed to capture all five senses in each word she wrote in a way that didn’t feel overdone or flashy, but rather familial and pure, which fit the book’s themes of family and home so well.
I loved how she showed both the good and ugly sides of each country — as an American reader, it was an important reminder of how my home is far from perfect when it comes to the way it treats its immigrants, documented and undocumented. This story was full of ugly examples of xenophobia, racism, and other acts of violence or hatred toward the focal family. It really broke my heart seeing such terrible acts in a place that was literally founded by immigrants, reminding me of how many have endured and continue to endure this in order to achieve their American Dream.
And while it certainly didn’t shy away from some of the tragic things happening in Colombia (many of which drove Elena and Mauro to start their lives in the U.S. and risk being undocumented immigrants), this story was full of wonderful urban Bogota folklore and Andean myth, showing the truly beautiful sides of a country that I was unfamiliar with. I feel like in America, politicians and media often point to Colombia as an example of a “bad place,” citing examples of drug cartels and violence. But this Own Voices story totally transformed that narrative, showing what the experience of every day life is like for this Colombian family. If anything, it was a powerful reminder that our country has its fair share of meanness and pure ugliness in how it treats those that are different.
This book had the power to break my heart and heal it all up again, with tragedy and hope in a well-maintained balance. If you’re looking for a short, emotional, yet hopeful immigration story that is sure to show you a new perspective, then I definitely recommend this one for your TBR.
Content Warnings: xenophobia, sexual assault, racism, violence.
Publisher: Avid Reader Press / Simon & Schuster