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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
2,890791,999 (3.75)109
  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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» See also 109 mentions

English (74)  German (5)  All languages (79)
Showing 1-5 of 74 (next | show all)
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 |
I'm writing this review in July of 2015, so there is still more than a year before the next US Presidential election. The issue of people crossing into the USA from Mexico has already been raised and I assume will become a subject all the candidates will talk about, especially as we move out of the primary season and into the general election. This is the reason I chose to read The Tortilla Curtain. It is the story of two couples: Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher, a writer and a real estate agent who live in Southern California, and Candido and America Rincon, two Mexican nationals who have crossed the border illegally in hopes of working where the economy is better and, in the process, improving their lives. It was published in 1995, so some parts are a bit dated, but the main issue hasn't changed.

I skimmed through other reviews before writing my own and felt most of the people who didn't like this book were on one side or the other of the political argument. That's the trouble with writing about an issue such as this. But a writer's job is to make us think and I felt T.C. Boyle did a good job of showing the problems of both the couples and in the process showing both sides of the political issue. When the problems of a couple who are trying to protect their home and lifestyle are compared with the problems of a couple who are trying to find food and shelter, the latter couple's issues seem more serious. But the Mossbachers' problems are very serious as well and include more than one situation which could result in death. All four of the people at the center of this novel have their own dreams. The people also change as the story is told, making them all seem real and flawed.

The interactions between the residents of the development where the Mossbachers live and the Mexican immigrants is the core of the story. But it isn't the only issue. Some of the immigrants react in negative ways that cause additional problems for the other immigrants. And there are disagreements among the suburban home owners as to how to deal with the issues affecting their community.

I would recommend this novel to anyone who wants a better understanding of the border issue, but also to anyone who just wants to enjoy a good read.

Steve Lindahl – author of Motherless Soul and White Horse Regressions ( )
  SteveLindahl | Jul 30, 2015 |
T. C. Boyle reminds me of a kid on the playground taunting, "made ya look." He's an emotional hijacker; he can make you look through any character's eyes at unpleasant, ironic human realities that we'd all prefer to forget. In The Tortilla Curtain, Boyle is at the top of his perspective-shifting, biting-black-humor game. This time Boyle is riffing on the immigration issue in suburban Los Angeles, making the reader look through the eyes of Mexican illegal immigrants, and then through the eyes of wealthy Californians. "Nature red in tooth and claw" is ever-present, lurking around the edges, seeking whom she may devour.

What really separates humans? Boyle forces us to address this question. Is it wealth? Race? Nationality? The luck of the draw? Work ethic? Our perception of what constitutes the "good life"? And what about the division between decent people and cold-blooded violent psychos of whatever background? Ultimately, you conclude, everybody is just trying to survive within a very chaotic, crazy-funny, heartbreakingly tragic universe. Boyle is America's Dickens and Wilde rolled into one, and this novel is genius. I recommend it with one caveat: don't go into the California desert with Boyle unless you really want him to make ya look. ( )
  JMlibrarian | Mar 3, 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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