Title: The Tortilla Curtain by T. C. Boyle
Genre: Currently #27 on Amazon Best Sellers Rank in Kindle eBooks, Literature & Fiction, Literary Fiction, Satire, and #62 in Contemporary Fiction, Urban
Publisher: Penguin Books
Publication Date: September 1, 1996
Source: Free download BookBub
Title and Cover: The Tortilla Curtain–eBook cover attracted my attention (prefer it to the paperback version below)–thought it would interest hubby–this is his review.
This book has been around more than twenty years and certainly long enough that there are more than sufficient synopses. So at this point, I must assume the literary crowd is familiar with the setting in the beautiful but fragile ecology of the Topanga Canyon of Southern California. This scenario situates two couples on a course designed to slap your senses into a new mindset. The classic style Greek pathos novel grasps the very soul of society and squeezes so tightly I came close to declaring a DNF more than once. No getting around it–this is a very difficult book.
Progressive liberal Los Angeles couple Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher are living their American Dream in the Arroyo Blanco Estates, a newly gated hilltop community. Kyra is a successful realtor, her husband a naturalist, writer. Mexican illegals Cándido and América Rincon have fought their way to the base of the canyon where they’ve set up a rustic camp and the goal is to keep from starving. América is 17 and pregnant. Driving his Lexus up the steep canyon road, Delaney hits Cándido, which begins the clash of the two couples living in proximity but light years apart in opportunity and privilege.
As the affluent residents of the community wrestle with the coyote’s pursuit of their pocket dogs, tofu, and the sale of the next mansion, the illegals grapple with staying warm and dry, and because of the injuries suffered in the collision with the Lexus, Cándido cannot work. América is now considered their source of funds but lacks any English.
This novel plots immigrant worker Cándido who has crossed the border several times and sent money to Mexico to support his family. Following a trip back home, he and América are robbed and beaten at the border and go north penniless. We are a liberal welcoming and sympathetic society until the disadvantaged want to live next to us. Labor from south of the border is necessary to our way of lives, inconvenient to be housed and live around, though the cheap labor is an advantage, creating the mind-numbing conundrum.
Delaney struggles with his compassion for the situation, which is offset by his irritation at the labor pools around vacant buildings and the mess he finds while on his forays into the woodlands for research of his nature articles. The twists and turns in the novel remind me of my life in California and the internal shame felt when I see so much of myself in the main character.
While the dialogue generally felt natural, it also included many phrases of Mexican slang. The mutual protagonists, both Delaney and Cándido illicit empathetic emotions, both understanding their feelings at the same time as being censored. Kyra exhibited all the impressions of an alpha-female, successful and independent, not as fully developed, more of a two-dimensional character. The catastrophic lives of Cándido and América almost became a fictionalized caricature.
The conclusion demonstrates the humanity borne of most persons of any background and in this case of Cándido by compassion towards Delaney. This is a very thought-provoking and introspective tale. Unusual genre for me, brilliantly written, though I found little satire here more than tragedy. This eBook was a free download from BookBub. I can recommend as still a very topical, hot-button issue with a new eye into understanding.
Rosepoint Publishing: Four point Five of Five Stars
The Author: (From Amazon Author page) T. C. Boyle is the author of eleven novels, including World’s End (winner of the PEN/FaulknerAward), Drop City (a New York Times bestseller and finalist for the National Book Award), and The Inner Circle. His most recent story collections are Tooth and Claw and The Human Fly and Other Stories.
(From Goodreads Author page) T. Coraghessan Boyle (also known as T.C. Boyle, born Thomas John Boyle on December 2, 1948) is a U.S. novelist and short story writer. Since the late 1970s, he has published eleven novels and more than 60 short stories. He won the PEN/Faulkner award in 1988 for his third novel, World’s End, which recounts 300 years in upstate New York. He is married with three children. Boyle has been a Distinguished Professor of English at the University of Southern California since 1978, when he founded the school’s undergraduate creative writing program. He grew up in the small town on the Hudson Valley that he regularly fictionalizes as Peterskill (as in widely anthologized short story Greasy Lake). Boyle changed his middle name when he was 17 and exclusively used Coraghessan for much of his career, but now also goes by T.C. Boyle. ©2018 C E Williams