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The Tortilla Curtain | [T. C. Boyle]

The Tortilla Curtain

Topanga Canyon is home to two couples on a collision course. Los Angeles liberals Delaney and Kyra Mossbacker lead an ordered, sushi-and-recycling existence in a newly gated hilltop community: He is 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.
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Publisher's Summary

Topanga Canyon is home to two couples on a collision course. Los Angeles liberals Delaney and Kyra Mossbacker lead an ordered, sushi-and-recycling existence in a newly gated hilltop community: He is 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.

From the moment a freak accident brings Candido and Delany into intimate contact, these four and their opposing worlds gradually intersect in what becomes a tragicomedy of error and misunderstanding.

Winner of the Prix Medicis Etranger and now a major motion picture.

©1995 T. Coraghessan Boyle; (P)2006 Blackstone Audio Inc.

What the Critics Say

  • Winner of Audio Publishers Association 2007 Audie Award, Narration by the Author or Authors

"A compelling story of myopic misunderstanding and mutual tragedy." (Chicago Tribune)

"This highly engaging story subtly plays on our consciences, forcing us to form, confirm, or dispute social, political, and moral viewpoints....Boyle manages to address these issues in a nonjudgmental fashion, depicting the vast inequity in [the characters'] parallel existences. This is a profound and tragic tale." (Booklist)

“This novel examines America's guerrilla war between the haves and have-nots with a zing unequalled since The Bonfire of the Vanities.” (The Observer)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

3.8 (276 )
5 star
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3.9 (83 )
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4.2 (84 )
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2 star
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Performance
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  •  
    Julie Trumbull, CT, USA 09-13-06
    Julie Trumbull, CT, USA 09-13-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "What a talented author & narrator!"

    I have now read or listened to several TC Boyle novels and have enjoyed each of them very much. He has a great range of subjects and styles. In The Tortilla Curtain he takes on a heavier theme (than, say, in Drop City -- also highly recommended), and it was an eye-opening look at the plight of Mexicans who are trying to improve their lot in life. I enjoyed all of the subtle and not-so-subtle ironies when comparing the lives of the characters. This would make a good discussion book for a book club.

    Most of all, though, I was inpsired to write this review after seeing some of the criticism of TC Boyle as a narrator for one of his other books. In The Tortilla Curtain, his narration was excellent -- one of the best I have heard!

    16 of 16 people found this review helpful
  •  
    William 06-14-06
    William 06-14-06
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Thought-provoking, enthralling"

    This is a parallel tale of Delaney and Candido, a "have" and a "have not" whose lives intersect. Boyle contrasts the lives of both without parody or accusation, and, without being preachy or heavy-handed, Boyle opens our eyes to the plight of illigal immigrants. I really enjoyed listening to the author read his work.

    12 of 12 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lesley Mississauga, ON, Canada 08-09-06
    Lesley Mississauga, ON, Canada 08-09-06 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Well Done"

    Great read by the author narrator, enjoyed listening to the book and would highly recommend it to anyone. Thought provoking, a great view from both sides of the fence. Encourages analysis of our own thoughts and feelings for others, especially those that are less fortunate.

    8 of 9 people found this review helpful
  •  
    KP Oakland, CA 04-05-12
    KP Oakland, CA 04-05-12 Member Since 2006

    There is no Frigate like a Book To take us Lands away Nor any Coursers like a Page Of prancing Poetry – Emily Dickinson

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "The Tortilla Curtain"

    I loved this book! I think my main reasons for liking it have to do with how much there is to think about and analyze within it. It???s a dark satire like Farenheit 451, Clockwork Orange, or Lord of the Flies in which the author is presenting a negative picture of the way our society deals with illegal immigration. He does this by juxtaposing the stories of an upper-middle class, yuppy couple and then a homeless, suffering illegal immigrant couple. I saw a lot of comments by readers who felt the book was too stereotyped or over exaggerated. However, I think that was intentional and done for the very purpose of creating a satire to make us look at ourselves.

    The story is really good, and I felt compelled to keep listening until I finished. I really wanted to hear how it would all end. I love it when I???m swept along in a story like that.

    The comparisons and contrasts between the two couples as the story moves along are actually humorous in their stark differences. For example, when Candido, the immigrant, is walking up and down the canyon on his way to and from looking for work, he barely has shoes, is essentially starving, has no hat, no sunscreen, etc etc. Next we see the main, yuppy character, Delaney, hiking in the same canyon with expensive hiking boots, bottled water, sunscreen, gourmet trail mix, etc, etc. The comparison would be comical if it weren???t so sad. This type of comparison goes on throughout the book.

    T.C. Boyle makes America take a look at how we deal with ???the other.??? The main ???others??? in the book are the Mexican illegals, There is a lot of imagery about walls and fences to keep them out, however, he seems to compare them to a force of nature, like wild animals, firestorms, or floods, that really can???t be kept out or controlled no matter how hard you try. And trying could just possibly ruin you in the process. Thus Delaney???s fences and walls, in the end, are useless, and we see Delaney himself descend into a kind of madness as he tries harder and harder to make sense of it all and keep the control that he so desperately wants.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 04-08-13
    Julie W. Capell Milwaukee, WI USA 04-08-13 Member Since 2007

    notthe1

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Little details add up to one good read"
    What made the experience of listening to The Tortilla Curtain the most enjoyable?

    This is the first T.C. Boyle book I have ever read and I can say it is one of the best contemporary novels I have read in a very long time. The characters were the biggest reason I liked it, probably because I could really identify with several of them, in particular, the white, suburban liberals in the story. Boyle did an amazing job of depicting the continual self-analysis and self-doubt of the typical liberal (me), who wants to come down on the side of the oppressed, but then has a running monolog inside his/her head arguing the other side as soon as the chips are down. Many passages describing the interior debates of the main character had me laughing out loud, recognizing the ludicrousness of much upper middle-class political correctness. In particular, the irony of the woman who was outraged at the treatment of a dog but then couldn’t care less what was happening to the human beings (Mexicans) in her neighborhood was a great reminder of how we often have our priorities completely f%^*-up. Little details like the fact that the white protagonists were lunching salade nicoise with a baguette from the local French bakery, while at the same time, the Mexican protagonists were practically starving in a ravine a short distance away, made me wince, they were so spot-on. The book also helped me better understand some of the reasons why people in states that have a lot of illegal immigrants are so militant about the issue of immigration. I live in Wisconsin, but even here we are not immune to some of the heavy-handed treatment of immigrants (see my review of “Rescuing Regina” for more on that).


    Any additional comments?

    I went against my normal rule and listened to this book on audio even though it was read by the author himself. To my surprise, he did a very good job and I would definitely purchase another audio of Boyle reading his own work.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Valerie 01-11-12
    Valerie 01-11-12 Member Since 2002

    Say something about yourself!

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Who Said Writers Shouldn't Narrate Their Own Work?"

    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.


    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    john United States 08-08-10
    john United States 08-08-10 Member Since 2010

    John Foley

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    "Entertaining..Yet Stereotypical & Over the Top"

    This book was the first I have read/listened to of Boyle. I thought it was entertaining and easy to listen to quickly. The problems I had with the book were his representation of illegal immigrants and use of natural disasters. I shall omit talking about the later. Boyle portrays illegal immigrants as slobs, vial, and the only Spanish that Boyle employs to communicate the main characters' thoughts is either degrading or filthy (to match their appearance that Boyle presents). I thought this was too easy; because he portraits illegals just the way I, unfortunately, imagine them (What am I to expect when I call them illegals). I wish he would have given me a different perspective other than that which I am inundated with by the media. This book made me wonder if he has ever met and illegal...

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    G. stone boulder creek, ca 07-24-07
    G. stone boulder creek, ca 07-24-07 Member Since 2006
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "TC Boyle, Hmmm"

    Everyone I know loves TC, but I dunno. I realize that when he tells a story it's more about the heart of the characters then the plot, but what we end up with is a slow and not altogether believable yarn. The way he creates a stereotypical--cultural viewpoint was so predictable, I felt like I was reading an outline, not a real story...

    5 of 6 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bobbi B 07-14-07
    Bobbi B 07-14-07
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Excellent"

    I really enjoyed listening to the author read his book. The story was very enlightening to me regarding the different issues each character had to face.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Molly-o Seattle 05-11-09
    Molly-o Seattle 05-11-09 Member Since 2007

    English major. Love to read

    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Disappointing"

    I was looking forward to reading this book because there aren't very many novels written about the Mexican immigrant experience. I found this book, however, full of stereotypes and written in a way that my senses were offended. The points he wanted to make were lost in the poor writing and insight into how to make characters come alive on the page. I stopped listening to it 3/4 of the way through.

    4 of 5 people found this review helpful
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