Thursday, March 22, 2018

The House of Broken Angels ~ Luis Alberto Urrea

The House of Broken Angels by [Urrea, Luis Alberto]
Urrea, Luis Alberto. 2018. The House of Broken Angels. New York, NY: Little, Brown and Company, an imprint of Hachette Book Group. ISBN: 978-0316154888. $27.00 USD.

After seeing all the buzz and great reviews for this novel, I eagerly started it one weekend, and pretty much read it in one sitting.  It addresses so many important themes: families (and dysfunction therein), forgiveness, redemption and above all, love.

The day before Big Angel de la Cruz has his 70th birthday celebration, probably his last one, his mother passes away, and all the family who were coming in for the party attend the funeral first instead.  That is the set up for the novel;  but it is written in a non-linear manner - it takes the reader into the past to tell the stories of all the people who populate this big-hearted story.  We learn about Big Angel’s extended family: his father Don Antonio, who was a policeman in Mexico and abandoned the family for a white woman, leaving his wife and three children to suffer severe poverty; his brother Cesar, and sister Mary Luisa, who have their own back stories often hilariously told; his wife Perla and her two sisters Lupita and Gloriosa (ah, Gloriosa!); his children Lolo and Minnie, and most of all, his half-brother, Gabriel (aka "Little Angel"), born to Don Antonio and his American wife, Betty, through whom we witness many of of the events of the book.

There are a lot of characters in this book with formal names, nick-names and interesting connections, and I found it was helpful to create a family tree as I was reading. There are also a lot of Spanish words, and I had Google translate open most of the time I was reading, but it did not inhibit my enjoyment of the book.

The House of Broken Angels is an epic, raucous, often hilarious story that I just completely fell into.    We see the Mexican American de la Cruz family in all its amazing messiness, the good and the bad, but most of all, the love.  The quote from the book that keeps resonating with me is spoken by Big Angel near his death: “All we do, mija, is love.  Love is the answer. Nothing stops it. Not borders, not death.”

This novel expresses “inexplicable days of grace” in so many ways, and it will stay with me a long time.  Highly recommended!

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