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Publisher's Summary

In this "raucous, moving, and necessary" story by a Pulitzer Prize finalist (San Francisco Chronicle), the De La Cruzes, a family on the Mexican-American border, celebrate two of their most beloved relatives during a joyous and bittersweet weekend.

"All we do, mija, is love. Love is the answer. Nothing stops it. Not borders. Not death."  

In his final days, beloved and ailing patriarch Miguel Angel de La Cruz, affectionately called Big Angel, has summoned his entire clan for one last legendary birthday party. But as the party approaches, his mother, nearly 100, dies, transforming the weekend into a farewell doubleheader. Among the guests is Big Angel's half brother, known as Little Angel, who must reckon with the truth that although he shares a father with his siblings, he has not, as a half gringo, shared a life.  

Across two bittersweet days in their San Diego neighborhood, the revelers mingle among the palm trees and cacti, celebrating the lives of Big Angel and his mother, and recounting the many inspiring tales that have passed into family lore, the acts both ordinary and heroic that brought these citizens to a fraught and sublime country and allowed them to flourish in the land they have come to call home.  

Teeming with brilliance and humor, authentic at every turn, The House of Broken Angels is Luis Alberto Urrea at his best, and cements his reputation as a storyteller of the first rank. 

"Epic...Rambunctious...Highly entertaining." (New York Times Book Review)

"Intimate and touching...the stuff of legend." (San Francisco Chronicle)

"An immensely charming and moving tale." (Boston Globe)

National Bestseller and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist

A New York Times Notable Book

One of the Best Books of the Year from National Public Radio, American Library Association, San Francisco Chronicle, BookPage, Newsday, BuzzFeed, Kirkus, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Literary Hub 

©2018 Luis Alberto Urrea (P)2018 Hachette Audio

Critic Reviews

"Luis Alberto Urrea's The House of Broken Angels is a vivid portrait of one Mexican-American family in San Diego and the complexities of immigration and heritage. The patriarch of the De La Cruz family decides to throw a huge birthday party in the last days of his life, but his mother also dies in the days leading up to the event, leading to a bittersweet celebration of both of their lives and their family's legacy." (Jarry Lee, Buzzfeed)

"Exuberant...Urrea has written a vital, vibrant book about the immigrant experience that is a messy celebration of life's common joys and sorrows." (Publishers Weekly)

"This, the most personal book by the great American novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, is one of the most vivid and engrossing family epics of the last 20 years." (Dave Eggers, National Book Award finalist and New York Times best-selling author of The Circle)

What listeners say about The House of Broken Angels

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    4 out of 5 stars

Not death, and Not borders

“The House of Broken Angels” is the first Great San Diego novel. It is written in a language not classically literary, and yet exactly accurate and appropriate to the place, the time, and the people. It is the melting-pot amalgam of two cultures, and two languages, and too much history; about a family that encompasses all of this, a family that is real and believable because in fact this is what an increasing, perhaps preponderating, majority of families are like - in San Diego and all along the US – Mexico border.

The plot is simple. It is sort of an Aztlan “As I Lay Dying”: the ruminations of the terminally ill Angel de la Cruz at his final birthday party. But the ruminations of any human being open up a history with so many memories, regrets, accomplishments, subplots, fantasies – that they provide a portal through which to view the entire panorama of a life nearly finished. And beyond that, the entire world in which he lived.

And that entire world is displayed here: the origins in Mexican poverty, the “Children of Sanchez” machismo and misogyny, the strange gravitational field that keeps Hispanic families continually falling apart and bonding together, the older generation which immigrates to the US but never really leaves Mexico; the younger generation that lives in its own little gang-boundary barrio with its own culture neither Mexican nor American, the half-assimilated cousins that hardly know Spanish but still have quinceañeras, the weird gringo uncle who wears Hawaiian shirts. (And, yes, Cheech: there is probably a son-in-law named Jeff!) They are all there, and they are all real, and they are all what San Diego really is.

The language is simply brilliant. Only the author, Luis Alberto Urrea, whose ear has captured and whose pen has transcribed these borderland dialects with such verisimilitude, could have done justice to this book. The English narration is literary, the Mexican Spanish is authentic, the pocho amalgam of both is spot on. Even the occasional gringo-Spanglish bastardization rings true. This is the way the border speaks, and Urrea is the laureate who has captured it on the written page and in the spoken word.

There is simply NO WAY that reading this book could be as rewarding as listening to Urrea's narration.

100 people found this helpful

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Authentic but slow and confusing

This novel had so many great things - the writing was amazing. It felt poetic at times, and the feel of this novel was totally authentic. It starts with Big Angel, the patriarch of a Mexican-American family, burying his mother and also preparing for his own death from cancer. The very start was moving and fascinating. But then almost nothing happened in the first half, as the extended family began to gather. There were many characters, so many I was often confused who was who. I was ready to stop when the book jumped back in time and I gave it more time. It did get better, but not enough for me to finish this novel. I liked the authentic voice of the author, who narrated this, but that was not enough for me to stay with the book. I can see why others loved this. I tried to, and did really like parts, but not enough to recommend this. I loved the character Big Angel, but no one else came alive as an individual to me.

81 people found this helpful

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So much fun and an excellent narrator/author!

This was my first experience of Luis Alberto Urrea's writing and I will definitely be back for more. His characters are so warm, complete, and full of life I felt as if I were in the room/car/backyard with them all as the action took place. I am usually wary of author-narrated books (I'm sure we've all had at least one bad experience with those) but in this case I don't think anyone BUT Urrea himself could have breathed true life into his words - who else would have known how to say "PANCAKES!!!!" with that voice? Anyone who's ever lived in a border area will immediately recognize the particular style of Spanglish that wends it's way through the dialogue. I enjoyed every minute and may need to listen again very soon!

26 people found this helpful

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A nice family story

I enjoyed the story but I thought the book had too many characters. Each character’s story got lost in the mix at times and there were a couple of peripheral characters that did not leave a lasting impression.
I thought the story itself was was thoughtful, insightful and endearing. It was interesting enough for me to be able to finish the book but not engaging enough for me to be excited about reading it.

25 people found this helpful

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Historical Poetic of an Entire Family Through One Man’s Life

Through a constant flow of magnificent vignettes the author captures the music and poetic depth of Mexico and the beautiful immigrant landscape of San Diego to tell the story of a father and his family. Urrea uses the difficult and many times Riffic story of Miguel to tell a beautiful story of perseverance and love.

9 people found this helpful

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Marvelous story read masterfully by the author!

The House of Broken Angels is a beautiful novel about a Mexican-American family and focuses on the relationship of two brothers as the older one prepares to die. Luis Urrea yet again creates a novel that feels like a transformative spiritual experience—no mean feat, and it has never been done better. Best yet, Urrea himself narrates this audio book, giving the words the inflections they were meant to possess, and in the intended accent—whether speaking English, Spanish or Spanglish. As an avid reader as well as a devourer of audio books, I could recommend this more highly.

33 people found this helpful

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Hard to Follow

As a first generation Mexican American, I found this story hard to follow and quite frankly a little offensive. My family came here with nothing, from nothing but worked hard to assimilate and become lawyers, engineers, nurses, etc. They have produced 2 Harvard graduates, 1 Stanford, 1 Berkley and at least 20 other "lesser" graduates... read, Notre Dam, Chapman, USC, etc. Out of 38 first cousins, not a gang banger or drug addict among them. I was really hoping to relate to this story but other than chanclas and bollio sandwiches, I found very little. So disapointing to hear another story of an immigrant family of cheaters, gang bangers, abusers, etc.

5 people found this helpful

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A heartwarming story with a great performance

You would think that a story about the last days of someone dying of terminal cancer would be sad. But this shows how wonderful and enriching it can be to be around someone in their last days. My own father died of terminal cancer two years ago, and it was a wonderful privilege to be there with him and his final months. This story does more than any others to show how enriching that experience can be.

It also does a wonderful job of humanizing Mexican Americans and some of the challenges they face at this unique time in our history.

The performance by the author was also fantastic. He is both a gifted storyteller and a very gifted performer.


5 people found this helpful

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What a precious book!

I found this story so wonderful. Such a full bodied examination of family and love and death. I did grow up in Southern California so many of the places and events were warmly familiar to me.

9 people found this helpful

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Hang on til the end

It was difficult going for old gringo woman. But the last two hours made the going worthwhile.

4 people found this helpful

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Profile Image for Andrew
  • Andrew
  • 05-15-18

All of life in a single book

All of life in a single death. In a single book.

A brilliant performance by writer and reader.