Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Tortilla Curtain

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
Published:  1995 by Penguin Books
Source:  Purchased

  I am at a loss to explain this book.  It is well-written, but difficult and disturbing; and despite being published in 1995, the story feels like it could have been written right now.

  The story follows two couples:  Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher, living in an exclusive community in the Los Angeles area; and Candido and America Rincon, Mexican immigrants who live (camp out, really) in the surrounding canyons, surviving day to day with whatever they can scrounge.  Both couples are ultimately working toward the same thing - the "American Dream", whatever that may be - but the author dramatically describes how different the paths are.

  Illegal immigration is the underlying theme in this novel, and it was frankly difficult for me to read both the passages of what the Rincons endured to try to make a better life for themselves and of the narrow-mindedness of the middle-class represented in this novel.  Sadly, I believe that what was described is closer to truth than to fiction and T.C. Boyle does not provide any answers to the problems encountered (rather, he does not provide lasting solutions)  At the same time, the descriptions of the Southern California landscape are quite beautiful, even for me who is not a nature-type person and frankly not a fan of life in Los Angeles (based on my few business trips to the area)

  With the right group (i.e. one that can promote civilized discussion) I think this would be a wonderful book to talk about with others. 



  1. So, did you like the book? It's sounds like you were a little ambivalent.

    I really liked the book but agree with your post. No solutions, and such narrow-minded people.

    I loved the scenery. I've been to Arizona and I could relate with the weather and location quite well.

    Boyle has another book, East is East, that is also about an illegal immigrant but this time, a Japanese one. Reviewed on my blog.

  2. Isn't Boyle great? I love that he explores thing so deftly, and that he leaves his readers feeling uncomfortable sometimes. This was a great review, and now I am looking forward to trying this book. Thanks for sharing your insight!

  3. I received this from bookmooch many months ago and have yet to tackle it. I'm glad to see that you felt it was an accurate portrayal of the topic, as I was afraid it would be sugarcoated and dumbed down. However, I'm unfamiliar with Boyle's work so perhaps it's just that I haven't been introduced to his style. Great review.

  4. I was going to teach this book in a Literature class that ended up with low enrollment. I felt like the book was so current (despite the publication date), that it would work really well with students. It is hard to say that I "like" the book, but I would also definitely recommend it.

  5. Boyle is an author I have yet to read. This sounds like a good one. I like that it seems authentic.

  6. Judith -- I guess I liked the book; I finished it after all, but it is just one of those subjects that is difficult to enjoy.
    I will check out East is East.
    Zibilee -- this was my first Boyle novel and based on what you say it kind of reminds me of Lionel Shriver.
    Beth -- the subject is definitely not sugar-coated! It's very real.
    LBC -- this would be a fascinating book to teach and great for promoting thoughtful discussion.
    BookQuoter -- as I mentioned, this was my first Boyle so I don't know if this was the "right" one to start with but it was good.

  7. Illegal immigration is one of those topics that no-one wants to resolve because the solutions are difficult and will take time, good will and political backbone.

    We have plenty of time and good will it seems. The issues are much larger than illegal immigrants and there are very few politicians willing to tackle them (tax structure for example).


What do you think? Good or bad, I'd love to hear from you (but be nice - I'm sensitive!)