Summary and book reviews of Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

Infinite Country

by Patricia Engel

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel X
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
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  • Published:
    Feb 2021, 208 pages

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Book Summary

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.

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 in the north.

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. And all the while, the metronome ticks: Will Talia make it to Bogotá in time? And if she does, can she bring herself to trade the solid facts of her father and life in Colombia for the distant vision of her mother and siblings in America?

Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of 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.

Coming Soon.

Please be aware that this discussion guide may contain spoilers!
  1. Infinite Country begins with Talia's restraint of a prison school nun, her time at the correctional facility a punishment for committing an even more viscerally violent attack. Think about Talia's decision to throw hot oil on the man who killed the cat and how this choice surfaces at various points. Reflect also on the sentence, "Talia considered how people who do horrible things can be victims, and how victims can be people who do horrible things" (page 8). What role does moral ambivalence play in the novel?
  2. For Mauro and Elena's family of five, the concept of "home" is a fluid one, distinct to each character and dependent on time and place. Choose a character and chart their relationship to Colombia and to the United States. Does it ...
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Reviews

Media Reviews

Esquire
Engel's sweeping novel gives voice to three generations of a Colombian family torn apart by man-made borders...Gorgeously woven through with Andean myths and the bitter realities of undocumented life, Infinite Country tells a breathtaking story of the unimaginable prices paid for a better life.

Elle
At once a sweeping love story and tragic drama, Infinite Country...promises to deliver what American Dirt could not: an authentic vision of what the American Dream looks like in a nationalistic country.

Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
Engel's vital story of a divided Colombian family is a book we need to read...The rare immigrant chronicle that is as long on hope as it is on heartbreak.

Publishers Weekly (starred review)
[O]ustanding...Engel's sharp, unflinching narrative teems with insight and dazzles with a confident, slyly sophisticated structure. This is an impressive achievement.

Booklist (starred review)
The immigrant's story might be well-traveled ground, but Engel constructs a layered narrative outlining how the weight of every seemingly minor choice systematically cements into a crushing predicament...Lively folktales of the Muisca peoples punctuate Engel's remarkable novel as it illuminates the true costs of living in the shadows. Told by a chorus of voices and perspectives, this is as much an all-American story as it is a global one.

Author Blurb Lauren Groff, author of Florida and Fates and Furies
Patricia Engel is a wonder; her novels are marvels of exquisite control and profound and delicately evoked feeling. Infinite Country knocked me out with its elegant and lucid deconstruction of yearning, family, belonging, and sacrifice. This is a book that speaks into the present moment with an oracle's devastating coolness and clarity.

Author Blurb Lisa Ko, author of The Leavers
Clear, moving, and perfectly calibrated, Infinite Country follows the members of one mixed-immigration status family as they navigate dreams, distance, and the bonds of love and memory. Patricia Engel is a stunning writer with astonishing talents.

Author Blurb R.O. Kwon, author of The Incendiaries
Infinite Country is a wonder, and Patricia Engel is a magician. Epic yet exquisitely private, a book to make you marvel.

Author Blurb Luis Alberto Urrea, author of House of Broken Angels and The Devil's Highway
Patricia Engel has an elegant voice. But that finesse has a way of making the shocks and surprises in her fiction more stunning. Infinite Country is her most satisfying work. You won't be sorry. Well, you will be sorry when it ends.

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