When I saw that Infinite Country by Patricia Engel was an option for February's BOTM, I had to add it. I had been seeing inklings of this book among the book bloggers I follow and was immediately intrigued by the synopsis of young Talia and her journey between countries to be reunited with her family. At just over 200 pages, this book packs so much between it's covers and is an honest and searing portrayal of the effects immigration and deportation have on families. If you are unfamiliar with the United States immigration laws or the process, I encourage you to read Infinite Country It puts the reader in the shoes of the emigrated and gives them an insight into the emotional and physical tole it can have on a family unit. I don't think it is a stretch to say that most of us want to be together with our family, in one place, but Infinite Country shows you that it isn't always possible and the laws and borders have the ultimate say.
Talia is being held in a correctional facility for young girls in the heart of Columbia. Before entering the facility, she lived with her father and deceased grandmother. The other half of her family, her mother and two siblings, live in the United States. A number of circumstances contributed to Talia's family being displaced between two countries, but she is determined to make it to the United States to be reunited with the family she barely knows. A story with dual sense of place, multiple character storylines that span time and space, with the underlying story of Talia and whether she reunites with her mother and siblings. Infinite Country is a searing, honest, and heart wrenching portrayal of the impact immigration and deportation have on a single family.
Wow, does this book make you think and feel. It only gets better the more you reflect on it after finishing it. The emotional impact of Talia and her father, Mauro's, separation from the rest of their family is impossible not to take on in your heart. Just the thought of one of my children and my husband being in a different country from me, unable to be reunited, makes me physically ill. Yet, this is the reality for many families that have tried, or are trying, to immigrate to the United States.
All I can think is, there has to be a better way. The more I read about other people's perspectives with issues such as immigration, racism, classism, and discrimination, the more frustrated I get thinking of all the blocks put in place to make living so damn hard for some. Living in one location with your family is a basic human right, yet that doesn't seem to be taken into consideration when it comes to visa status and deportation history.
I encourage literary fiction fans to read Infinite Country and take some time after you finish to reflect on the story and how you would feel if you were in each of the family member's position. Like I said, this one gets better and better the more you reflect on it, especially for being such a quick read.
"Going home was never an option for these women. When Elena brought up the possibility of packing up, taking the children to Colombia to be with their father and grandmother, Norma warned, "This is a chance you won't get again. Every woman who has ever gone back for the sake of keeping her family together regrets it. You are already here. So are your children. It's better to invest in this new life, because if you return to the old one, in the future your children may never forgive you."
"When you leave one country for another, nobody tells you years will bleed together like rain on newsprint. One year becomes five and five years become ten. Ten years become fifteen."
"I've had borders drawn around me all my life, but I refuse to live as a bordered person. I hate the term undocumented. It implies people like my mother and me don't exist without a paper trail. I have a drawer full of diaries and letters I never sent to my grandmother, my father, even to my younger sister that will prove to anyone that I am very real, most definitely documented."
"Leaving is a kind of death. You may find yourself with much less than you had before."
"Eventually she'd understand that in matters of migration, even accidental, no option is more moral than another. There is only the path you make. Any other would be just as wrong or right."
To read more about the undocumented immigrant experience, read:
The Undocumented Americans by Karla (click the title link for my review)