Monday, September 29, 2014

The Tortilla Curtain

A couple of weekends ago I was just sort of rambling through my bookshelves, looking for a new read. Do you ever do that? Browse around in your own home -- as if you are at a bookstore? I picked this one T.C. Boyle book out from among them and ZOWIE -- I was hooked. I mean, check out the first line of Chapter 1:
Afterward, he tried to reduce it to abstract terms, an accident in a world of accidents, the collision of opposing forces -- the bumper of his car and the frail scrambling hunched-over form of a dark little man with a wild look in his eye -- but he wasn't very successful.
Doesn't that make you want to know more? Well, for the rest of the whole weekend I could not put the book down -- and hence, finished it in two days.
T.C. Boyle is a terrific writer, and in this, his most popular book [according to his website] he explores the problem of illegal immigration from Mexico to the U.S. via what is known as "the tortilla curtain." Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher lead an upscale success-filled existence on the outskirts of L.A. They enjoy a basically trouble-free life in their hilltop community of Arroyo Blanco. He is writer for a magazine, and she is a five-star realtor. But from that first sentence onward, their lives are about to be changed forever as a result of a run-in with some of the other umm… non-tenanted residents of the area. A man named Candido, along with his 17-year old pregnant "wife" [they aren't officially married] live in the canyon down below the properties. Their life is one of profound hardship, scrabbling for piece-work each day down at the labor exchange. Often subsisting on… well, garbage. The dream of coming to America and becoming even semi-prosperous has [to say the least] not worked out at all -- and it does not help that Delaney smashes into the man with his new Acura! Now the injured Candido has to rely upon the young girl for the few dollars she is able to bring back to their camp each night.
The story is searing. You just want something to work out for Candido and America [that's the girl's name] -- but things just go from worse to…. more horrid, each and every day. Meanwhile, the community [and understandably so] takes greater and greater measures to exclude these fence-jumpers from having any hope of getting ahead. 

Are we suppose to pity them? Well -- you be the judge. I know I did.
More than proposing any right attitude toward the "problem" [and admittedly, it is a severe problem] -- the author just presents a horribly realistic look at [as Barbara Kingsolver put it] "the smug wastefulness of the haves and the vile misery of the have-nots."
I was captivated by this novel from start to finish. And what a crescendo of a finish it is. 

I highly recommend this book -- my favourite of the Boyle books I have read thus far.


(Diane) Bibliophile By the Sea said...

I read this book twice (something I never do), but I just loved it so much and very appropriate given our immigration issues.

Stefanie said...

Isn't it great fun to browse your own shelves for a new read? I am almost surprised by what I have that I had forgotten about. Glad you found one you liked so much!

Jeane said...

Hey, I read this one a while back. I remember really liking it.