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The Madonnas of Echo Park

3.57  ·  Rating Details ·  1,912 Ratings  ·  335 Reviews
We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours.

With these words, spoken by an illegal Mexican day laborer, The Madonnas of Echo Park takes us into the unseen world of Los Angeles, following the men and women who cook the meals, clean the homes, and struggle to lose their ethnic identity in the pursuit of the American dream.

When a dozen or so gi
Hardcover, 199 pages
Published June 1st 2010 by Free Press
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May 03, 2011 Karissa rated it liked it
This is the thing about this book: when I started it, I was convinced I was going to love it. From the meta-pseudobiographical author's note, to the first couple of stories, I was riveted. I loved the interweaving story idea to create a novel. I was drawn in by the language (though perhaps overwritten at times), I was intrigued by the characters who felt honest and compelling, and the book made me nostalgic for Southern California. I settled into chew through a book that I would be exhilarated b ...more
Nov 22, 2014 Leonard rated it it was amazing
The Madonnas of Echo Park tells the stories of Mexicans who struggle through their daily lives in Echo Park, a section of Los Angeles. The book starts with "We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours," and ends with "This is the land that we dream of, the land that belongs to us again." A summary of the characters' attitudes toward the land they love and struggle to claim as their home.

Echo Park
Echo Park (Photo by User2004 at Wikimedia Common)

For a migrant worker, "I hav
Madeline Knight-Dixon
Jul 24, 2012 Madeline Knight-Dixon rated it it was amazing
This is one of those books that is constantly making you think, and constantly realize how ignorant Americans are. It’s about Echo Park, a Latino neighborhood in LA that is predominately Mexican. One of the chapters focuses on illegal workers, how terribly their treated and how much they are looked down upon even from people in their own community. The novel constantly struggles with are you a Mexican-American, or an American-Mexican.

At its core, the book is about identity. Can you escape your c
Dec 29, 2010 Jimmie rated it it was amazing
Shelves: los-angeles
There's been a string of critically acclaimed novels lately that are basically collections of interrelated character-driven vignettes with little plot (e.g., "Elegance of the Hedgehog," "Let the Great World Spin," "Olive Kitteridge," "The Imperfectionists"--which is one of my Top 5 reads of 2010). I think the book that comes the closest to "Madonnas" is James Frey's "Bright Shiny Morning," not only because they're both set in Los Angeles (or that they were both less well-loved by critics), but a ...more

Brief news flash: Both of my cataract surgeries are now complete. I can see everything without glasses! Well, except for small print close up in poorly lit places, for which I use those reading glasses you can buy at pharmacies. I am so happy!

Now onto my review. Except for a trip on the week of Christmas, I shall be posting regularly again. Thank you for your patience.

My hand-crafted, boutique, and very special Tiny Book Group is on a project to read books set in Los Angeles. All three of us are
Luke Schwiebert
May 08, 2013 Luke Schwiebert rated it really liked it
This book will surprise you. Not in its themes or its writing style (though the former are important and the latter is excellent), but in it's presentation: every single chapter is told by a different character. This isn't made obvious at first, so you may get thrown for a loop at the beginning of Chapter 2, but once you figure it out, it really works.

I've read some other reviews that say that Madonnas "isn't really a novel, more like a short story collection." I guess that's true on its face, s
Tattered Cover Book Store
Jackie says:

This book had me from the author's note, which begins, "This book was
written because of a twelve-year-old girl named Aurora Esperanza." It
seems that he, who was also 12 at the time, had said something terrible to her and then never saw her again, so was unable to apologize to her directly. He had to find a different way to apologize, and now, 25 years later, he has. In the form of this book. "I'm ready to dance with you, Aurora. This is my confession. I hope you understand why I need
Sep 24, 2015 Barbara rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-read
For me, this novel is an eye-opening read of the Mexican American community. It’s author, Brando Skyhorse writes in his author’s notes (which were in the beginning of the novel, which I LOVE), that he wrote this novel as a “forgive me” note to a twelve year old girl whom he disrespected in 6th grade. Beyond that, Skyhorse wanted to give voice to the Mexican American community who grew up in the Echo Park area of Los Angeles during the 1950’s to the present. All the stories are basically true, dr ...more
More like 3.5. Interconnected stories set in Los Angeles. The vivid descriptions of the world the characters live in held my attention but not always the stories. I heard this on audiobook so I feel that played a factor in my rating. I feel like this will be a re-read for me in print. However, Mr. Skyhorse is a storyteller. I look forward to his next novel.
May 16, 2014 Chris rated it really liked it
Shelves: 2014-reads
I found this to be an interesting companion piece to Steinbeck’s Tortilla Flat, which I read earlier this year, but my opinion of this book may have suffered by the comparison. I do enjoy the concept of interrelated stories that create an overall novel-like effect and it has been used to memorable effect by Saroyan (The Human Comedy) and Steinbeck (Tortilla Flat and The Pastures of Heaven).

I will start out by saying that I enjoyed at least half of these stories very much. The Blossoms of Los Fe
Robert Starner
This is a book that I will definitely need to revisit. I am not sure that it got my undivided attention, and this book respectfully commands and deserves it. The author presents a kaleidoscope of imagery and characters that populate the ethnic neighborhood of Echo Park buried in downtown L.A. Much like the movie Crash, Skyhorse weaves and interconnects the stories of many inhabitants of Echo Park through familial and non-familial relationships with one of the main events involving the driveby sh ...more
Mar 17, 2011 Constance rated it did not like it
Gosh, I really wanted to like this book, but I couldn't even finish it. The primary word that I keep thinking of to describe this book is "inartful." It is SO awfully and badly executed, in its voices, character descriptions, plot development, everything. It is also inconsistent and hard to follow! Did anyone edit this book?! Here's a one example of many: One chapter is written from the voice of an older Latina woman (another is uninterestingly written from the voice of a self-hating American-bo ...more
Jun 08, 2010 Toni rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fiction
I have been talking a lot about this book at work because it just excites me. One of the marketing blurbs about it that I read said that it will do for Mexican-Americans what Junot Diaz's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (which I LOVED) did for Dominican-Americans. What that means is that there isn't a lot of mainstream fiction that displays the lives of the various ethnic communities in this country. Especially of the non-white ones.

What makes this book special is the author's note at the b
Mar 25, 2012 Danielle rated it it was amazing
The Madonnas of Echo Park is a must read for anyone curious about an increasingly diverse U.S. society. Skyhorse skillfully brings readers into Echo Park, and offers a holistic perspective on the many challenges its population faces. He develops a plot line that reads almost like a movie - each character's chapter/story seems unique and more revealing than the ones before until, suddenly, one realizes that the current narrator is actually the previous narrator's mother and a later character-narr ...more
Jul 10, 2011 Daisy rated it liked it
Recommended to Daisy by: saw it at Book Soup
Shelves: la-hollywood
I'm ready to dance with you, Aurora. I hope you understand why I need to say that to you here, in this way: because a work of fiction is an excellent place for a confession. p. xx

A novel that feels like short stories or a collection tied together by recurring characters to shape it into a novel. In each chapter you meet a character who later is the centerpiece of another chapter. If you don't read this fast enough, you might forget who's who--or at least I did, with my shoddy memory. I had to pa
Jun 01, 2015 Kim rated it liked it
This book was selected as the book for all incoming freshmen at my university to read for this coming fall. I tend to really enjoy these types of nested and inter-connected stories, and Skyhorse does a really fine job of connecting characters in unexpected and interesting ways. It was a bit challenging to follow these connections at points, but worth it to get the full flow of the story. For me, this was the most enjoyable book we've read in this series of books for incoming freshmen, and it rai ...more
Barbara Nutting
Aug 31, 2016 Barbara Nutting rated it really liked it
It's a long way from Echo Park to Stanford if you are a poor Mexican - congratulations Brando on completing that journey. I was born and raised in Los Angeles county - how was I so blind to this aspect of Southern California life. I went to USC and have eaten at El Cholo (best Mexican food anywhere) many times but somehow these stories never entered my narrow little world. Lots of insight regarding the Mexicans in this country - be they US born Amexicans or illegal immigrants. Everyone should re ...more
Kristi Bumpus
May 03, 2015 Kristi Bumpus rated it it was ok
I actually couldn't finish this book. To start with, it wasn't the book I expected. I somehow missed the tiny "a novel" on the front cover and thought when I picked it up that it was nonfiction. Truthfully, it was neither nonfiction nor actually a novel. What got me was that something horrible seemed to happen in every single chapter. I'm sure, had I kept reading, some story of redemption might have emerged. But -- and this is completely about me, not the author -- I'm at a place in my life righ ...more
Ted Guevara
Jul 03, 2014 Ted Guevara rated it it was amazing
I have officially read a rejuvenated John Updike in The Madonnas of Echo Park. I’ve long followed such fluency throughout my life and career, and now it protrudes its head again in an ethnically-bound novel. Though the book is divided in eight compartments (plus the pulse of the story which is “Author’s Note")—or maybe they’re apartments where the windows are jacaranda blossom-colored through the eyes of the deeply smitten reader—the links between them are expressively cool, subtle. The language ...more
Oct 19, 2010 Mandee rated it liked it
Shelves: checked-it-out
I'm really torn with how to rate this book.

The bookcover says The Madonnas of Echo Park A Novel, but in this case I think the A Novel add-on is subjective. It's really a collection of short stories at most, and in my opinion it's probably not even quite that. Each chapter is written from a different character's POV, but each chapter is not a full story, short or otherwise. Each character may or may not have some connection to another chapter's character, however slight it may be. I realize this
Larry Hoffer
Echo Park, the Los Angeles neighborhood down the hill from Chavez Ravine, is the setting for Brando Skyhorse's interconnected story collection, The Madonnas of Echo Park. (I think Brando Skyhorse may be one of the coolest names I've ever heard for an author.)

The characters in Skyhorse's stories are Mexican-Americans of varying ages who are trying to fit in with or rebel against their culture and their neighborhood. Many of the characters are the types of people we pass by every day—cleaning wom
Jan 01, 2011 Jenny rated it really liked it
Recommended to Jenny by: Pete's book club
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jul 14, 2010 Ed rated it really liked it
While I certainly enjoyed the book on its own merits, I found myself immediately comparing, mostly positively, vs. other novels... the coincidental (or magical) intersecting of lives recalled Let The Great World Spin... the authentic ethnic voice and edge was quite reminiscent of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao... and the nostalgia factor of the 1980s and a very particular place (also from a non-white perspective) made me think of Sag Harbor. While I know that's not terribly helpful if you ...more
Jun 03, 2012 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse is a breathtaking novel, a connected set of short stories, which explores the predominately Mexican American neighborhood of Echo Park in East L.A. Each story relates the struggles of immigrants and first and second generation Mexican Americans and subtlety explores the themes of race, class, and assimilation. Skyhorse opens the world of gangs and drive-bys, day laborers and cleaning ladies, and in turn shows readers how the characters involved in the ...more
Apr 05, 2011 Niree rated it it was amazing
Despite the prevalence of death, several unreliable narrators, and derogatory observations, Madonnas of Echo Park is a simply beautiful piece of work. A few chapters in, I was hesitant to regard it as a novel, though it proudly calls itself as such on the cover; but halfway through, I accepted it. The characters are interwoven into each other's stories with such calculated but subliminal ease, I'm itching to go back and make a tree for their relationships. Skyhorse really brings Echo Park to lif ...more
Feb 03, 2011 JennEllen rated it really liked it
Shelves: book-club-2010
Thank goodness for book club. This is not a book I would have even given a second glance on my own, but I am so glad that it was a book club pick. I really enjoyed it--once I figured out what was going on. The writing is brilliant--it's rare to find a male author who can write female characters well. The storyline is choppy and unclear at times, due to the fluid movement through time and characters, but the enjoyment comes not from the plot so much as from figuring out the relationships among al ...more
Mar 21, 2011 Elizabeth☮ rated it really liked it
this is a collection of vignettes of various residents of echo park - a neighborhood in los angeles.

the story centers around aurora esperanza - a young girl that is from the author's real life. when skyhorse is in sixth grade, esperanza asks skyhorse to dance and he declines because she's "mexican." esperanza never returns in the following weeks so skyhorse can issue an apology. this book is his apology of sorts.

thus the book deals with the complexities of growing up Mexican in America. skyhorse
Dec 27, 2013 Corie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: readers of literary fiction
Beautiful lyrical passages that made me stop and re-read to appreciate (again) the use of language. Mr. Skyhorse's word work is skilled but unpretentious. I can think of a dozen contemporary comparisons, but truthfully he has done something so unique I believe that no comparison would be fair or accurate. (Perhaps the closest and fairest would be the superlative "Olive Kittridge".) Regarding the charges from other reviewers that the book is "inauthentic" I have to respectfully disagree. In my op ...more
Sep 09, 2010 Liz rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Meh. I only got through the first couple of chapters. I was really put off by the opening "author's note" (which was really more like a prologue) in which we find out that the book is sort of an extended apology to the girl he insulted back in junior high. The thing is, he goes and makes her a character in the book, essentially co-opting her story and her voice. I found that to be rather incongruous, and the whole "mea culpa" tone was too much. (I had thought that guilt-ridden whiny MFA fiction ...more
Dec 29, 2014 Melissa rated it it was amazing
I bought this book from the bargain bin and because I needed one more book to meet my goal of 125 books in 2014. I saw the comparisons to that of Crash (a movie I didn't care for) and Junot Diaz (I wasn't impressed with his debut novel), so I was dubious about this book - but I thought I'd give it a whirl. I was impressed from the first line of the prologue. I appreciate the thought that the author put into the book, keeping the theme of intertwining lives at the center of the plot. And the loca ...more
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Brando Skyhorse is the author of the memoir "Take This Man" to be published by Simon and Schuster on June 3rd, 2014.

Brando Skyhorse’s debut novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park, received the 2011 Pen/Hemingway Award and the Sue Kaufman Award for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. The book was also a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick. He has been awarded fello
More about Brando Skyhorse...

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“The time between your first major fight with your best friend until you make up is, for a teenage girl, about as long as it took for God to create the universe. . . . It's excellent training for having a boyfriend.” 27 likes
“Faith is a luxury for those who are able to ignore what the rest of us must see every day. Pessimism, distrust, and irony are the holy trinity of my religion, irony in particular.” 19 likes
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