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The Tortilla Curtain

3.64 of 5 stars 3.64  ·  rating details  ·  16,745 ratings  ·  2,107 reviews
Winner of the Prix Medicis Etranger

Topanga Canyon is home to two couples on a collision course. Los Angeles liberals Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher lead an ordered sushi-and-recycling existence in a newly gated hilltop community: he a sensitive nature writer, she an obsessive realtor. Mexican illegals Candido and America Rincon desperately cling to their vision of the America...more
Paperback, 355 pages
Published September 1st 1995 by Penguin Books (first published 1995)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Rachel
I thought it was chilling the way the author wrote about these "do-gooder" types (the real estate agent and wildlife journalist) and how they are so careful to exercise regularly (swimming, running, hiking, etc), live a healthy lifestyle (there is a line, something like "while not true vegetarians, they watch their intake of animal fats"), and be "aware" of society's ills (like the way Kyra speaks out against animal abuse, how Delaney speaks out against feeding coyotes, and how they both express...more
Nolan
its really hard to believe that mr. boyle lives anywhere near the US/Mexico border. His portrait of the subject is trite, ham-fisted and overly simplified.

In the world of the tortilla curtain, being a liberal means that you recycle. In the world of the tortilla curtain, being hispanic means you are either unbelievably downtrodden and unlucky or you're carrying a knife and willing to use it.

early in the novel, the protagonist hits a hispanic man with his car. when he goes to see if the man is o...more
Livia Stone
This is the book that finally put me off of fiction written for adults. Unless you live under a rock with cotton in your ears and a bag over your head, you know that life sucks and the human experience is filled with misery and despair. When I spend my precious time reading, I want to read something well-written and inspiring, regardless of the content.

For example: You can read something about the holocaust, and come away feeling amazed and grateful that there are some people in the world capabl...more
Amanda Jasso
This is the kind of book that brings me close to tears of frustration and rage. An arrogant author, white and male, taking on huge socio-political issues and reducing them to 300+ pages of exaggerated, trite, offensive dribble. Another case of the white male fiction writer appopriating the voice of an ethnic minority in his work. And, yes, Boyle writes this with an interjection of the cultural elite, of whiteness, which for some crazy reason seems to give him access to minority groups, their fee...more
Michael
Apr 30, 2007 Michael rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: People who like a strong narrative on a contemporary subject
"The Tortilla Curtain" by T.C. Boyle is not without its flaws, but even a decade or more after publication, it has only grown in its relevance regarding the deep-seated problems of illegal immigration, particularly the Mexican-southwestern U.S. nexus.

Boyle tells the story of two couples, one rich, white and privileged, the other homeless, Mexican and struggling, and how their lives intersect. Delaney and Kyra live in a polished, gated community north of Los Angeles, where she works as a real est...more
mark
I took this out from the library over a year ago. I lost the book, paid for it, found it again, settled in to read it, but before I could do this Ryan returned it to the library thinking that it was way way overdue. Enough time has elapsed for me to overcome my feeling of foolishness, so I checked it out again. As it turns out, the timing was perfect. In the past week, the political landscape has turned racially quite ugly. And my passage through this book kept perfect time with the dispatches f...more
Jessica
This book is honestly one of the worst I have ever read. While the author shows clear skill and talent at detailed imagery, he often takes things to an unwanted, graphic level. There is a scene where one of the main characters is described to 'shake his prick' after taking a leak. TMI, thank you very much. While the same action (or lack of it) was referenced in the novel "Empire Falls", the author of that novel had a clear point in it; to depict the character as unclean. In the Tortilla Curtain,...more
Ted Burke
Culture clash is the theme in Tortilla Curtain, and leave it TC Boyle to go beyond the abstract curtain of statistics, policy wonkery and three-hankie tragedy mongering and provide the reader instead with a contradiction that is harshly comic; well off Southern Californians, nominally liberal in their politics, are forced to deal with an illegal couple who are in the most dire situations.

It works to the degree in that the suburban pair preferred to have their causes at several layers of removal...more
Judy Buckley
I found this to be a poorly written satire of pretty much everyone on both sides of the illegal immigration issue. As such it really didn't add much, if anything, to the great debate. Very predictable.
Judy
I stopped by my local library and started scanning the shelves for a book with an orange cover that would qualify for a Rainbow Challenge that I am participating in. This book looked intriguing with the great cover and story centered around illegal immigrants in California, a topic I have never read about before. I'm afraid the cover was the best part of the book.

Between the inconsistencies, stating one thing, then a few paragraphs later something that didn't jive, the drab characters, drama th...more
M.L. Rudolph
1995. I started out liking the story and the author's voice, drawn in by the setting and the rhythm of the narration. The more I read, the less I liked the characters, the story, the narration, and the artificiality of the tale.

To the point that I can say I regret wasting my time reading such a well-written, carefully constructed foolish story.

Have you ever liked a book a little bit less with each page you turned? This one got worse for me the further I read. If there was a zero star rating, I...more
Margaret Tufo
I read this for a class that dealt with immigration issues. It is a wonderful example of being born with privilege. Quick and easy read. Gave it 4/5 because the female characters are poorly developed (as is rest of TC Boyle's novels). I got frustrated with this novel because of the bad things that constantly happened to the protagonists and the in-your-face irony, but it had its good points as well. I think anyone should read this before they try to take a position on the US-Mexican immigration...more
AnitaDurt
Dec 04, 2007 AnitaDurt rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: gluttons for punishment
I actually threw this book across the room after I finished it because it made me so upset. Its a tragicomedy with not a lot of comedy about the parallel realities of a man and woman couple from Mexico struggling to survive as illegal immigrants and a man and woman couple who live in an affluent suburb of LA. Their lives are inter-connected and tragic and there's not a lot more to be said. There's not even a little ray of hope or talking about any kind of ways to work together to resist everyone...more
Bobby
I personally found nothing likable or redeeming about this book. It's full of depressing, tragic (to the point of being very unrealistic in my opinion) events that keep on occurring to a poor, immigrant Mexican family. Their plight is contrasted with the transformation of a self-described "liberal humanist" into a paranoid racist who is obsessed with catching them. Except that the change in him is so dramatic in a relatively short time frame that I found it hard to believe. I found the book heav...more
Carol
My book group had a lively discussion about the Tortilla Curtain. We all agreed that the book is even more relevant today than when it was written 1995. It explores the mindset of liberal whites when they are challenged with interacting with homeless illegal Mexicans that are living in their canyon. When Delaney Mossbach hit Candido Rincon with his car, he was unaware that the seemly wild canyon he lived by was inhabited by homeless Mexicans. The story goes between the lives of the Mossbachs and...more
Katrina
Sep 22, 2008 Katrina rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Any adult who is interested in the topic of illegal immigration.
Recommended to Katrina by: Library Book Discussion
Shelves: adult, fiction
The best part of this book for me was the feeling that the author was not "taking sides" or villianizing one group or the other. I think that both couples (Kyra & Delaney, America & Candido) were equally sympathetic and unsympathetic. I feel that both couples are stereotypes, made more believable by the human touches that the author added.

I think it is chilling the way the author wrote about these "do-gooder" types (Kyra & Delaney) and how they are so careful to exercise regularly, l...more
Sherry Howland
I grew up 20 minutes from the Mexican border. I knew people like Candido and America, good, honest, hard-working folks who only wanted a chance to live and prosper, who spent each waking moment dreading the appearance of La Migra. TC Boyle has characterized these people beautifully. They're not angels, and he nailed the bad elements, the punks and chucos, just as thoroughly as he brought his protagonists to life on the page. If people think this book DOESN'T deal with the reality of life in Sout...more
Lisa Vegan
Nov 19, 2007 Lisa Vegan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those who are willing to question their outlook on life & their opinions about other people
Well, even though I am not ignorant about immigration issues, this book made me more aware, and it encouraged me to be thoughtful, so I liked it for that. I liked the writing style and enjoyed most of the story.

I wasn’t wild about some of the events that happened toward the end of the book: I thought they were heavy handed and unnecessary; it was the slice of life events that I found most interesting and I didn’t need any big “blockbuster” events.

Rife with symbolism and commentary on various top...more
Christopher Lele
Tortilla Curtain gives a human face to an issue that all too often is cast in its extremes. Talk show hosts rail against 'illegals' taking over our country and our jobs; the other side demonizes the government and equates their handling of Mexicans the way that Hitler handled the Jews. In the end, both sides make us want to plug our ears.

Illegal immigration, what should be done, how we should think about, is far more complex and nuanced than that. So it refreshing to see T.C. Boyle tries to cap...more
Donna
I browsed some of the reviews before starting this book. People either loved it or hated it. So with that, I knew I had to read it.

I think those who didn’t like it, expected something more ... more realism ... more research of the rising and contentious border problem ... more character development ... just more! I admit it lacked some of those things to some degree. But I felt that is wasn’t written with a serious hand that wanted to reveal a deep dark expose on the plight of illegals. The aut...more
Meghan
I can't quite seem to get invested in this book. It is a book club choice so I will finish it, but I find myself already thinking about the next book that I want to read.

I quit half way through. This book barely deserves one star. I could not get invested in the characters....they had promise, but I didn't feel as though the author delivered much. The book was almost like the movie Groundhog Day - same thing over and over. This may have been the point, but I was not willing to complete the book...more
Sean
I have to admit. I gave up. None of the characters interested me in the slightest. They were chock full of cliches, flat and two-dimesional, and just plain boring. Maybe if you make it all the way to the end, that's part of what possibly makes this story interesting—that one, or all, break out of the stereotypes and become beautiful butterflies, but I have to ask, if the story is mind numbingly boring up to that point, then you've possibly made it impossible for people to see your brilliance.
Tenille
The book The Tortilla Curtain was, in my opinion, a way for T.C. Boyle to boost his ego. It seemed like he was more focused on were the money or praise the book could generate rather then the story itself. It felt like one big attempt to show off how well he thought he could write instead of being a vessel for a story to form out of. His characters were two-dimensional and as interesting a Brittany Spears cardboard cut out. While the idea itself was an interesting concept, the characters and th...more
Allison
I had to cry uncle after chapter one on this one. The writing style was good, but it did this thing I hate, where it's all, "Look at me, I'm a WRITING STYLE." This on top of the fact that I am not a fan of the listing tactic, i.e. "He saw a flash of metal glinting on the asphalt and wondered what it was. Was it a paperclip, or a staple, or scissors, or a razor, or a shiny nickel, or a soda can tab, or a piece of aluminum foil, or the silvery detritus of the discarded dreams of the Mexican underc...more
Michelle
I read a couple of other reviews about this book. Some people sound really cranky with the author, Mr. Boyle, or found the book to be very depressing. It has its unhappy moments, sure, but I wouldn't say it was so depressing that I couldn't finish it. Those unhappy with the author seemed to think the book was unrealistic. I'm not sure how realistic his story is, but I thought it was very interesting at least. I would recommend it to anyone who has ever said anything about Mexicans or illegals in...more
Suzanne
Dec 12, 2007 Suzanne rated it 1 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: People that don't mind feeling depressed everytime they open the book
Recommended to Suzanne by: Jane & John
It is a rare thing for me to start a book and not finish it, but this is what I have decided to do. Multiple people told me this was such an awesome book but I can't take how depressing it is. Maybe it is because I work with a lot of immigrants that it bothered me so much. I was on a total reading kick and stoked to get to this one but every time I had time to read I thought "oh, that is too depressing, I don't want to read that right now..." so I didn't. And then I didn't read for about 6 month...more
Alexis
If you are just begining to understand privilege then... Fine, read and enjoy. I'm sure you will learn something. But if you already understand this and know about the inequity and complications that exist between the "haves" and the "have nots", don't waste your time. Everyone is very stereotyped and the book "tries too hard" (I mean, for godness sake, the Mexican couples names are "Candido"- meaning guiless or inoffenssive in Spanish- and "America"- which is pretty loaded and heavy handed, esp...more
Michelle
An expose on a social issue that comes off as racist.

This book has basically the same plot as the British book Little Bee. The lives of two social groups – the pretentious liberal Californian and the struggling illegal Mexican – are intertwined in need and guilt resulting in bubbling emotion. Except Little Bee is artful and this book falls flat.

It’s so clear that the author falls into the first group, a pretentious over-educated American. And his insight into the struggling Mexican mindset is so...more
Clare
I wish that anyone who moans and groans about illegal immigrants would read this book. What I learned (though I already knew it somewhere inside of me) is that Mexicans who come to the United States illegally do not leave their homeland because living in the US in easy for them. These people leave their homes and relatives because they want an opportunity to work. The unemployment rate in Mexico currently runs around 40%. If people want to have a modest place to live and to feed their families,...more
Maree  ♫ Light's Shadow ♪
I may have said this before, but I find that with a lot of what I consider literary books (which by my personal definition) are books with a message, ones that are discussed in classes, book clubs, that sort of thing rather than just fun reads), the ending it what will determine if the rest of the buildup was all worthwhile. Here, it was nice, but I would have preferred it to be different.

(view spoiler)...more
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T. Coraghessan Boyle (also known as T.C. Boyle, born Thomas John Boyle on December 2, 1948) is a U.S. novelist and short story writer. Since the late 1970s, he has published eleven novels and more than 60 short stories. He won the PEN/Faulkner award in 1988 for his third novel, World's End, which recounts 300 years in upstate New York. He is married with three children. Boyle has been a Distinguis...more
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