The House of Broken Angels - Luis Alberto Urrea

When I first read the description of this book, the first thing that came to mind was a book I read about 15 years ago, about another Mexican patriarch on his death dead, La Muerte de Artemio Cruz (1962) by Carlos Fuentes. As I started the book, I realized that I was indeed reading the death bed story/confession(?) of the next generation.

 

There were the subtle similarities, very similar clan surnames (Cruz vs. de la Cruz), similar character names (Artemio Cruz vs Antonio de la Cruz), similar narration techniques and multiple narrators and points of view. However, Urrea's story, while perhaps an homage to Fuentes, is very much the story of the 21st century Mexican-Americans--the boomers, the millenials, the genXers-- those a generation or two on from the characters Fuentes wrote about. It is a story about assimilation, about working to hard to provide for one's family and to give the next generation a leg up in the world. It is about the bonds of family, the strength of women, the changing mores not just of the barrio but of society in general. And you get the gist.

 

I never read books narrated by the author (unless they are read by an actor) but after reading the reviews, I decided to go for it. Urrea reads beautifully. His voices and pronunciations were spot on--in both languages.I don't think any other narrator could have done the story justice.

 

My only disappointment in the whole book was what I felt was a weak ending and that maybe it was one last coda too many. But honestly, that does not stop me from recommending this book.