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The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto…

The House of Broken Angels (2018)

by Luis Alberto Urrea

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4663736,897 (4.16)105
"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 36 (next | show all)
Another masterpiece from Urrea. A moving story of family, one that reminds me of my own. Beautiful and uplifting even in inevitable death. ( )
  ThomasPluck | Apr 27, 2020 |
A big, sprawling, open-hearted family drama of a novel. Human and warm, messy and chaotic. Heavy, tragic, romantic, laugh-out-loud. Majestic. Recommended. ( )
  RandyRasa | Mar 20, 2020 |
In 2018 I began to re-read novels with frequency and zeal. I'm not talking about re-reading Shakespeare plays and Jane Austen novels and new translations of The Iliad and all the other stuff we all agree is worth re-reading, if and when we have the time. I'm talking about turning around and re-reading a newly published book within months or weeks or days of my first reading, a practice that I've come to embrace and to even look forward to, even though (like all the other avid readers here) I have an ever-more-ominous tower of 'to-be-read' books on my list that is trying always to persuade me to call the novel "read" and move on.

The House of Broken Angels is my latest re-read. It's maybe fitting, since this is a novel about family, that three weeks ago when I first read the novel it gave me the feeling I have sometimes when members of my own extended family come to visit--'ok I love you guys, but too much of a good thing is too much of a good thing, so maybe now it's time to go home.' I got to the end of my first read of this novel thinking almost exclusively about what I didn't like about these characters. Especially the men. Throughout the novel their thoughts and actions pricked my sensibilities, and made me hypercritical, until I was very cranky by the end.

But then it felt to me, because it was true, that I'd closed my mind to the goodness of these characters, and focused on their flaws. I don't like doing that with people, so why did I think it was fine to be so opinionated about people in books?

And so I read it again, deciding that this time I'd let these people be themselves.

Let me tell you something. I was deeply, deeply moved. By getting out of my own way and my own judgments I could see the extraordinary depth of feeling Urrea has created here among the members of this fictional family. A history of choices, and of memories shared. The extraordinary careful rendering of a blended family, not only blended by ethnicity but also by nationality--here is a fictional rendition of a family living the reality of border politics for the last few decades, the way undocumented and citizen exist within the same family, their fates determined by a few miles difference between their place of birth. It gently, yet devastatingly lays out the way border-crossing experiences can be, in some years, easy memories, whereas in other years (like those closer to the present day) border crossing becomes a harrowing outrageous violation of selfhood. The second time, I marveled at the way these people forgive one another. I loved the way the author loves this family, too, flaws and all, and the way he invites me to love them. My previous irritations with these characters' faults felt like I was being that kind of a family member who refuses to forget and move on and to forgive other family members, whereas this family, Big Angel's family, was all about forgetting and moving on and forgiving.

This novel is a beautiful humane depiction of the dignity of everyday humans, and you should read it.

Sometimes a get to the end of a book and it says to me, "turn around. go back. take another look." I'm so glad this novel said that to me.

Ok, I am reading this again and I'm loving it completely and without reservation. More to come.

First Read/Review, 12/15/18:

I loved this book but in a quiet way. As I read I kept thinking: 'wow, that's lovely,' and 'my, that is beautifully put,' and 'oh, what a dear way to capture this filial feeling,' but even so I was also feeling a little restless, and as if I'd stayed too long in a bath, or maybe, it's that I felt exactly as if I, too, was at this big family reunion, where almost everyone is a bit noisier than I would like, and none of them are very good listeners, and, even though I love them, and even though I know they are good people who are doing their best, all I want is for them to leave me alone, so I can go find a quiet room, and close the door behind me preferably with a glass of wine and a good book to keep me company. ( )
  poingu | Feb 22, 2020 |
I was about to listen to American Dirt when all the controversy broke out. And one of the articles gave a list of authors to read instead and so I found myself listening to House of Broken Angels. Read by the author, Luis Alberto Urrea, the story of Big Angel and his family comes alive. Though I didn't understand the Spanish I still felt all the emotions. I don't know if it gave me a lot of insight into a Mexican family who immigrates to the US, but it was a good listen. I think somewhere down the road I'll still give American Dirt a try.
  chasidar | Feb 3, 2020 |
Couldn’t get used to the writing style. Maybe the translation? ( )
  kakadoo202 | Jan 2, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 36 (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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