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The House of Broken Angels (2018)

by Luis Alberto Urrea

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5814333,185 (4.15)121
"In Urrea's exuberant new novel of Mexican-American life, 70-year-old patriarch Big Angel de la Cruz is dying, and he wants to have one last birthday blowout. Unfortunately, his 100-year-old mother, America, dies the week of his party, so funeral and birthday are celebrated one day apart. The entire contentious, riotous de la Cruz clan descends on San Diego for the events. High rollers and college students, prison veternaos and welfare mothers, happy kids and sad old-timers and pinches gringos and all available relatives. Not to mention figurative ghosts of the departed and an unexpected guest with a gun. Taking place over the course of two days, with time out for an extended flashback to Big Angel's journey from La Paz to San Diego in the 1960s, the narrative follows Big Angel and his extended familia as they air old grievances, initiate new romances, and try to put their relationships in perspective. Of the large cast, standouts include Perla, Big Angel's wife, the object of his undimmed affection; Little Angel, his half-Anglo half-brother, who strains to remain aloof; and Lalo, his son, trailing a lifetime of bad decisions. Urrea (The Hummingbird's Daughter) has written a vital, vibrant book about the immigrant experience that is a messy celebration of life's common joys and sorrows"--Publisher's weekly.… (more)
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Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
Digital audiobook performed by the author.
3.5****

A large Mexican-American family plans a get-together for the patriarch’s birthday. He’s dying of cancer and wants to gather everyone around him one more time. But as the big day approaches, Big Angel’s own mother dies (at nearly 100 years of age), so now there will be two celebrations in one weekend. One of the guests is Big Angel’s half-brother, known as Little Angel. As the weekend progresses, the brothers come to grips with how different their lives have been; while they shared a father, they did not share a life.

I have read two of Urrea’s novels previously, and am a fan of his writing. He peoples the work with a wide variety of characters – colorful, cautious, steadfast, reckless, proud, shy, angry, happy, broken or successful. He balances tender scenes against highly comic ones or anxiety-producing tragic occurrences.

I do wish I had had a family tree handy, however. Many of his characters go by more than one name, and the Mexican tradition of referring to every relative, no matter how distant, as “cousin” or “uncle” makes it even more challenging to keep the relationships straight.

I listened to the audio, which Urrea narrates himself. He is a wonderful performer of this work! But I think I will have to go back and read the text to fully immerse myself in this big, messy, loud, loving family. ( )
  BookConcierge | Oct 18, 2021 |
Ostensibly about an extended large Mexican American family, patriarch Big Angel is dying of cancer and is having one last birthday party, the day after everyone attends his mother's funeral. The book was very slow, and it was impossible to keep track of all of the characters. (Like Jennifer S said in her GR review, a family tree would be helpful.) The family is utterly dysfunctional, and while there were LOL moments, they were completely subsumed by heartbreaking moments. For non-Spanish speakers, we could get a situational understanding for some, but not all. The highlights of the book are Big Angel's love for Perla and the unexpected scene at the end. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
A poignant multi-generational saga that really occurred mostly within a single day. What stood out to me most was how life is relentless even in the face of death. There were a few OMG sort of moments, which, thinking back, kept the plot interesting but also gave the ultimate arc of the story a little perplexity. In true Urrea style, we meet some fantastic characters, but it was hard for me to follow at times. I always felt like I needed to learn more about them because I just liked them so much. (And I tended to enjoy the present-day scenes to the reminisces.) This isn't my favorite of Urrea's, but dang, is it still another touching novel.

Many thanks to Little, Brown and Co. and NetGalley for this advanced copy. ( )
  LibroLindsay | Jun 18, 2021 |
In an epic, raucous and often hilarious novel, we meet a sprawling Mexican-American family as they gather for the funeral of their matriarch, followed by the 70th birthday party of Big Angel de la Cruz. This is their story, in all its amazing messiness – about the good and the bad, but most of all the love. One of my favorites from 2018! ( )
  KellyWellRead | Dec 17, 2020 |
Miguel Angel de La Cruz, or Big Angel, as he’s known, calls his whole family back to celebrate what will be his last birthday – he’s been diagnosed with terminal cancer. His almost 100-year-old mother happens to die that weekend so the gathering morphs into a combination funeral and birthday party. It sounds like the makings of a somber occasion but it’s not. The de La Cruz family is a lively cast of characters, full of spirit and humor. (I had trouble keeping track of everyone. Some editions of the book have a family tree in them – if you decide to read this book, I recommend trying to find a copy that includes one.)

Little Angel, Big Angel’s half-brother, comes to visit for the celebration. He’s been raised by his white mother. He’s struggling with his identity as both white and Mexican and feeling somewhat like an outsider in the de La Cruz family, even though he is a part of it. Throughout the weekend, he listens as Big Angel tells him stories about his life and as people come to pay tribute to both Big Angel and Big Angel’s mother.

At its heart, The House of Broken Angels is about family. Urrea gave the relationships and characters wonderful depth. He based the novel on his relationship with his older half-brother, who also had a huge final birthday party. I’m sure that’s why the family in this book seems so authentic and their love for one another so real. ( )
  mcelhra | Nov 12, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 42 (next | show all)
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Jim Harrison told me to write this book. Cinderella told me first. You were both right. This is for her.

My niece Emilia Urrea was a shining example through times that inspired events in this novel.

And for Chayo, who danced at the funeral.

Juan Francisco and the Urrea family showed me how this story was possible.
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Big Angel was late to his own mother's funeral.
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"In Urrea's exuberant new novel of Mexican-American life, 70-year-old patriarch Big Angel de la Cruz is dying, and he wants to have one last birthday blowout. Unfortunately, his 100-year-old mother, America, dies the week of his party, so funeral and birthday are celebrated one day apart. The entire contentious, riotous de la Cruz clan descends on San Diego for the events. High rollers and college students, prison veternaos and welfare mothers, happy kids and sad old-timers and pinches gringos and all available relatives. Not to mention figurative ghosts of the departed and an unexpected guest with a gun. Taking place over the course of two days, with time out for an extended flashback to Big Angel's journey from La Paz to San Diego in the 1960s, the narrative follows Big Angel and his extended familia as they air old grievances, initiate new romances, and try to put their relationships in perspective. Of the large cast, standouts include Perla, Big Angel's wife, the object of his undimmed affection; Little Angel, his half-Anglo half-brother, who strains to remain aloof; and Lalo, his son, trailing a lifetime of bad decisions. Urrea (The Hummingbird's Daughter) has written a vital, vibrant book about the immigrant experience that is a messy celebration of life's common joys and sorrows"--Publisher's weekly.

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Luis Alberto Urrea is a LibraryThing Author, an author who lists their personal library on LibraryThing.

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