In This Review

Infinite Country: A Novel
Infinite Country: A Novel
By Patricia Engel
Avid Reader Press, 2021, 256 pp.

Engel’s unstated premise is that national borders are artificial, illegitimate boundaries and that enduring family love and human compassion should outweigh restrictive, often brutal immigration laws. She wraps her worldview in a poignant if at times overwrought tale, threaded with Andean mythologies, of three generations of urban, working-class Colombians who overcome social barriers and personal flaws to finally reunite in their new homeland, the northeastern United States. Burnishing her progressive credentials, Engel, a dual U.S.-Colombian citizen, insists on leavening her heroes’ achievements with sharp if familiar criticisms of the depreciated American dream. In describing the heartbreak of family separations and betrayals across generations, Engel’s style lies between the lyricism of the prolific Chilean novelist Isabel Allende and the deeper erudition of the younger Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli. Tellingly, Engel fails to consider the route to redemption suggested, albeit through a form of magical realism, in Disney’s blockbuster film Encanto: namely, that internally displaced persons, rather than venture across international borders, can find safer havens within their Colombian homeland, rich in natural beauty, community solidarity, and economic opportunities.