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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.

Critic Reviews

  • 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 Ratings


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  • Overall

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.

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Julie
  • Trumbull, CT, USA
  • 09-13-06

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!

17 of 18 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story
  • KP
  • Oakland, CA
  • 04-05-12

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.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

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Can't stop thinking about it

I listened to this book last spring and it still haunts me. It was just one preposterous thing after another, intertwined with a story that needs to be told in some way, but I don't feel this was it. Having grown in up East Los Angeles and having been around Mexican immigrants all of my life, I have never seen one of them wearing a serape or huaraches, which I felt was a bit trite in this story. Also I took issue with the reader using Spanish words and not pronouncing them correctly (such as "guero").

I appreciate that the author was trying to tell a story from all viewpoints, but in the end, I was left unhappy by this story.

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • john
  • United States
  • 08-08-10

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...

5 of 5 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

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

  • Overall


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.

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • G.
  • boulder creek, ca
  • 07-24-07

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...

7 of 8 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • CBDC
  • Washington, DC USA
  • 07-31-07

Too stylized

The subject is important and the differences in perspectives between residents and illegal immgrants is key, but all main characters are overdone and charactures. There is enough reality for me to wish the author had written the same story, but with more humanity and sensitiviity.

6 of 7 people found this review helpful

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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

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  • Saiwa
  • 11-06-16

Great book

Great to read and wonderful to listen to. Amazing performance by the author, I would strongly recommend this novel. Really interesting story line