With rare exceptions, writers should stick to the keyboards and leave the microphones to the pros. But T.C. Boyle does a great job with this story of two Mexican illegal immigrants who find life on our side of the boarder to be a dangerous and hungry place. During a time when "Illegals" are blamed for everything from rising health care costs to unemployment, "The Tortilla Curtain" exposes the actual economic dependencies we Americans share with our Mexican neighbors.
As did "The Help's," sixties-era maids, the Illegals in this story live and work without the protections and rights afforded other American workers and so are often exploited by everyone from employers to "coyotes" to imported Mexican criminals.
Even open minded, educated and well-intended individuals can be influenced by the attitudes and prejudices prevalent in their culture and victim blaming is an all-too-common justification for those attitudes. The book explores the psychology of power as the well-to-do Californians in the story struggle between their sympathies, their territorialism, and their simple desire to have their lawn mowed cheaply.
As with all of T.C. Boyle's works, this is a compelling story with engaging protagonists who are at once frustrating and endearing. Boyle always seems to put a great deal of research into his subject matter and so "The Tortilla Curtain" accurately depicts both the economic and interpersonal complexities of the cultural mash-up called California.
A thoughtful read with great narration. Highly recommended.
On the surface, this is the story of a big adventure for an unobtrusive man who has deliberately lived a quiet, adventure-free life. But as the tale unfolds, what we are hearing is how good deeds and a life well lived can sometimes reward us in surprising ways. Sometimes good things happen to good people because, well, they've earned it.
The engineering speak, along with a slightly dolorous-sounding narrator, can become a bit tedious but hang in there. It is a charming story.
Even if you read Huck Finn before -- and, who hasn't? -- Elijah Wood did such a terrific job with the narration of this classic that it was a very enjoyable revisit. Highly recommended.
If you are expecting something other than a rather standard romance novel, you'll be disappointed. It was an amusing premise, however, and the narrator did a good job with it — although I found her slightly edgy voice trying after a long listen.
Haruki Murakami can always be counted on to take his readers out of the realm of "The Normal." His stories tend to be slightly but plausibly supernatural and "IQ84" is no exception. I love Murakami's ability to give his readers a glimpse of some other reality flitting by just behind a gauzy curtain or just up a stairway by the interstate.
"IQ84's" characters are as complicated in their motivations and histories as the story line itself and all three narrators do a great job of giving them added depth. You can cheer for the protagonists without necessarily approving of them and really dislike the villains while harboring just a little pity and hope for their salvation.
Invest a credit and jump on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride. You'll enjoy the trip.
Many reviewers have compared this book with "The Help" although the only thing it has in common with that wonderful book is the broad subject matter of indentured servitude/slavery. This book takes a more stark view of the characters' oppressed lives than does "The Help," but without the raw brutality and cruelty described in "Roots."
Throughout the story, one never feels that the protagonists will see a positive outcome as no part of their lives is under their own control — a condition pervasive during this time period for not only slaves but, to a lesser degree, women.
I felt the characters lacked depth: The "good guys" are so predictably good and the "bad guys" are so predictably bad that it became a little too easy to anticipate the next turn of the continually anxiety-ridden events.
Orlagh Cassidy and Bahni Turpin were excellent and breathe life into their characters. For me, they made the difference between a mediocre and a good listen.
While I would recommend this book for the great narration and a story that seems historically accurate and interesting, don't download it if you are expecting the light-handed and humorous approach with which oppression is treated in "The Help."
After a rather meandering story and unfocused plot, the book abruptly ends leaving the listener looking for the concluding chapter. While I don't mind books that make you look forward to the next in the sequence, this one is truly "half a book."
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