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The Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle

The Tortilla Curtain (1995)

by T. Coraghessan Boyle

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
2,914801,978 (3.76)110
  1. 10
    The Jungle by Upton Sinclair (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Theme of workers' rights
  2. 21
    The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck (mcenroeucsb)
    mcenroeucsb: Theme of workers' rights
  3. 10
    The Harvest Gypsies by John Steinbeck (cammykitty)
    cammykitty: These are articles Steinbeck wrote about how California has used immigrant labor in it's history. Nothing like The Tortilla Curtain, but it is interesting background and will give you something to think about.
  4. 10
    Coyotes: A Journey Through the Secret World of America's Illegal Aliens by Ted Conover (Mrs.Stansbury)
    Mrs.Stansbury: If you would like to read a nonfiction account of illegal immigration try "Coyotes" by Ted Conover. Both Conover and Boyle attempt to be unbiased in their writing and open eyes to all sides of the issues associated with illegal immigration.

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English (75)  German (5)  All languages (80)
Showing 1-5 of 75 (next | show all)
Most of the characters, no I think all of them, are sharply drawn caricatures of either hypocritical wealthy redneck pseudo-liberals living in a gated California enclave, or poor hapless powerless victimised illegal Mexicans (how many adjectives can one sentence hold before it explodes?). Toss in some menacing rich white bully teens, mix with evil Mexican canyon denizens, add in a few natural-and/or-manmade disasters occurring at always exactly the wrong moment, and there's your story.
These characters are, for the most part, intensely unlikeable. The few likeable characters are irritating because you keep thinking, "Move on! Move away!". But they aren't listening to the voices in my head.
The characters were stereotypes, and it felt like Boyle was flicking switches calculated to trigger specific emotional responses. 'ok, moral outrage here, sentimental sympathy in 3,2,1, now!'
But it sure does get you thinking about the plight of Mexican illegals, and the limitless cruelties so easily perpetrated by so many, without guilt or self-awareness.

( )
  TheBookJunky | Apr 22, 2016 |
In The Tortilla Curtain by T. C. Boyle the lives of Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher are juxtaposed with those of Cándido and América Rincón. Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher, a nature writer and real estate agent, are living the American dream ensconced in a hilltop community above Topanga Canyon. Cándido and América Rincón are illegal immigrants from Mexico who are barely scraping out an existence while living/camping in the canyon. At the beginning of the novel Cándido is accidentally hit and injured when he crosses the busy canyon road in front of Delaney's car. After this point the story switches back and forth between the two couples, following their starkly contrasting lives as they all search for their version of the American dream.
The theme of sovereignty is explored and by the prevalence of the various walls, gates, fences. The Tortilla Curtain does not take a "side." It firmly encourages understanding both sides of an issue by looking at the circumstances, dreams, fears, and thoughts of all the characters. Boyle tackles our social consciousness in relationship to illegal immigrants, but along the way he also highlights other issues, including environmental causes, urban sprawl, introduced species, materialism, crime, and unemployment, to name a few. The Tortilla Curtain could actually be considered a very tragic novel, but for the added elements of comedy and satire.

From what I've read, Boyle never intended The Tortilla Curtain to be a treatise on illegal immigration. Above all, even though it handles some very weighty, heated issues that continue to be relevant even years after its publication, this is a fictional novel. I appreciated Boyle's masterful writing and his carefully crafted characters.

Very Highly Recommended - but it can also be considered controversial.

( )
  SheTreadsSoftly | Mar 21, 2016 |
This is the story of the haves and the have nots
Delaney has it all while poor Mexican illegal immigrant Candido and his 17 year old wife America have nothing.
Two very different tales intertwined.
Original good book this. ( )
  Daftboy1 | Feb 4, 2016 |
Audiobook performed by the author

Two Mexicans – America and Candido Rincon – are barely surviving in a makeshift camp in the canyons on the outskirts of Los Angeles. In contrast, Kyra and Delaney Mossbacher live in a gated community at the top of Topanga Canyon; he writes environmental articles, and she is an aggressive realtor. A freak accident connects these two couples.

I confess this went in a direction I wasn’t expecting. Somehow I thought there would be much more connection between the couples, instead I got two almost parallel story lines, which occasionally touched. I was initially quite sympathetic to the plight of Candido and America, but midway through lost much of my sympathy for them, only to regain it at the very end. It’s hard to look directly in the face of such abject poverty, such desperation, and not feel some impulse to help.

I never connected with Kyra. Boyle didn’t give us much beside a driven, career-minded woman who would step on anyone without so much as a glance in order to succeed. Her single-mindedness and narrow focus made me want to shake her.

Delaney was somewhat more sympathetic, until he began to rant towards the end. At first, I really thought he would find a way to help the Rincons, but it became clear quite quickly that he was only concerned about the inconvenience the accident presented. His only mission, it seemed, was to preserve the natural environment for his own use – so he could hike in peace through the hills observing nature (but God forbid, a coyote would come into his yard!). He became a sort of caricature. His total disregard of specific evidence in the closing chapters made me afraid for both the Rincons and for Delaney, himself.

In the end I’m puzzled as to what Boyle was trying to achieve. There are so many themes here from the abuse of the environment for the sake of development, to the harsh realities of immigrants’ lives (the abject poverty and subsistence living, their naiveté and the ease with which they are taken advantage of, their total powerlessness), to the resilience of the human spirit, to the obsessive desire to wall out anyone who is different. There’s much to think about, and it remains current and topical 20 years after it was first published.

T C Boyle narrates the audio book and does a credible job. He has good pacing and is particularly good when a character is expressing outrage or frustration. His Spanish pronunciation is accurate, as well. I did find his voice a little nasal and flat – especially when voicing the Mexicans. That’s really a small quibble, though.
( )
  BookConcierge | Jan 13, 2016 |
Finishing this book, I immediately wanted to recommend it for book club because I can't stop talking about it. Written in 1995 and read in 2015, the theme and details are still relevant and the voices scream truth. The lives of two dichotomous families - an affluent established American family and an extremely impoverished Mexican family recently migrated to America illegally - cross, run parallel and evolve attitudes and stereotypes. The same emotions and struggles are experienced by both and yet the definition and depths of their losses and gains couldn't be more opposite. ( )
  Sovranty | Nov 29, 2015 |
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» Add other authors (7 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Boyle, T. Coraghessanprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Commandeur, SjaakTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Grüneis, RobertForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Häupl, MichaelForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Richter, WernerTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Rosenblat, BarbaraNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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They ain't human. A human being wouldn't live like they do. A human being couldn't stand it to be so dirty and miserable. — John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
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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.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 014023828X, Paperback)

Winner of the Prix Medicis Etranger

Topanga Canyon is home to two couples on a collision course. Los Angeles liberals Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher lead an ordered sushi-and-recycling existence in a newly gated hilltop community: he a sensitive nature writer, she an obsessive realtor. Mexican illegals Candido and America Rincon desperately cling to their vision of the American Dream as they fight off starvation in a makeshift camp deep in the ravine. And from the moment a freak accident brings Candido and Delaney into intimate contact, these four and their opposing worlds gradually intersect in what becomes a tragicomedy of error and misunderstanding.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:25:51 -0400)

(see all 5 descriptions)

The lives of two different couples-wealthy Los Angeles liberals Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher, and Candido and America Rincon, a pair of Mexican illegals--suddenly collide, in astory that unfolds from the shifting viewpoints of the various characters.

» see all 9 descriptions

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