Thursday, July 30, 2015

The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

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

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