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January 11, 2015

The Tortilla Curtain


The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle
Fiction
1995 Penguin
2006 Blackstone Audio
Reader: T. Coraghessan Boyle
Finished on November 13, 2014
Rating: 3.5/5 (Good)



Publisher’s Blurb:

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.

T.C. Boyle is one of those authors I’ve always intended to read, but other authors always seem to win me over. When I saw that The Tortilla Curtain was available on audio, I decided to give it a try. One of my good friends mentioned that she feels it’s his best work yet, so I was especially eager to give it a listen. I enjoyed the production, which is read by the author, but I wasn’t as impressed with the novel as I thought I would be. It may be that I wasn’t giving the book my full attention, as I listened while working during one of the busiest months of the year. But I also think that this is one of those books that is better experienced by reading rather than listening. AudioFile shares my opinion:
From the day of Delaney Mossbacher's accident on the canyon road, his life and that of Candido Rincon continue to collide. Though cultures apart, Candido's homelessness and Delaney's yuppie paranoia make their interactions tragic and inevitable. Boyle presents interesting characters to the listener but seems to want to rush us through the story. The frenetic pace reflects Delaney's world better than Candido's. As their opposing voices are heard, Boyle's writing reflects an understanding of both sides, but his oral characterizations fall short. His narrative voice is eager and doesn't project his own satire as well as it might. R.F.W. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine.

Final Thoughts:

20 years later, T.C. Boyle’s social commentary about the immigrant experience remains just as important (and timely) as it did when it was first published in 1995. This would be a great book club selection, as there is so much to discuss about race relations, discrimination and illegal aliens. Skip the audio and read the book.

8 comments:

  1. I've heard a lot about this book through the years. I wonder if my book club would consider it.

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    1. I really think this would be a great book to discuss in a group or classroom setting. Of course, it could provoke quite a heated debate...

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  2. I've had this one on the TBR for a ridiculously long time. One day. One day.

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    1. Andi, I think this is right up your alley. Don't wait too long. :)

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  3. I loved this book... It would definitely be a good book club selection. Boyle's short stories are very good, too, and his novel The Women is in my TBR pile.

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    1. JoAnn, I've wanted to read The Women ever since I read Loving Frank. If and when I do, I think I'll read the print version rather than listen to the audio. I think Boyle's writing deserves to be read, don't you?

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  4. I've never read any T.C. Boyle either but if this is his best books and you only "liked" it, that doesn't bode well!

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    1. I think I'm in the minority, Lisa. Part of the trouble is always wondering if the print version is better than the audio. So many people loved this book. I think I may have missed out on something wonderful by listening to it instead of reading it. I know I was distracted while listening...

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