Sunday, July 14, 2013

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

Two families, one white, one brown, one rich, one poor, live parallel lives in Topanga Canyon.

 The Mossbachers, Delaney and Kyra, live in a new exurban development in one of the rugged canyons northwest of Los Angeles. Desperately poor illegal immigrants Candido and America Rincon camp under a tree near the same development. The novel opens with a car accident, Candido bouncing off the hood of Delaney’s luxury vehicle. Things go downhill for Candido after that. Way downhill. But he still keeps a strong optimism in the idea of America (the country and his wife).

This was a well crafted socially conscious book that I found dull. Possibly because all characters behaved completely as expected, clicking like the gears of a clock. Every single one of them had a placard around their neck. Delaney was an environmentally responsible chardonnay sipping type, Kyra was an ambitious real estate agent, Candido an optimistic immigrant, America was a beautiful earth mother (literally). I wanted to be surprised. I wanted the Mexicans to have some shading, and for the most part they were oppressed saints. However, I admire the ambition and the execution of the novel – many characters, well delineated from all classes of society. And very tactile descriptions of both the bad things that the Mexican family endures and the consumerist overload the white family experiences. The novel does confront a social question, but there wasn’t a lot of rage here. And I think rage is called for.

Also, I love flood scenes in books and this one had a great one.


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