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The Tortilla Curtain

3.65  ·  Rating details ·  24,592 Ratings  ·  2,908 Reviews
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 Cándido and América Rincón desperately cling to their vision of the American Dream as they fight off starvatio ...more
Paperback, 355 pages
Published 1995 by Penguin Books
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Gae Broadwater Sadly, that is the reality for too many people. I wanted to quit listening to it and had to tell myself that many people cannot walk away so I made…moreSadly, that is the reality for too many people. I wanted to quit listening to it and had to tell myself that many people cannot walk away so I made myself finish this tragic story.(less)
Umberto Tosi People in California are not much difference than in any other states. Boyle's narrative applies and the characters have a very human appeal. This is…morePeople in California are not much difference than in any other states. Boyle's narrative applies and the characters have a very human appeal. This is not a polemical book by any stretch. It's an artfully written satires about the contradictions and hypocrisy in our cultural attitudes about compassion and strangers, going back to biblical times.(less)

Community Reviews

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Dec 27, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Jul 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2015, dont-like, usa
I hated this book! Hated hated hated!
It was slow and really boring at ALL times.
One of the worst books I have ever picked up.
Nov 10, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: mybooks
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
Amanda Jasso
May 13, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Livia Stone
Oct 14, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: grownup
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
Apr 30, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  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
Jul 11, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This is probably not going to be a popular opinion, but...I didn't like this book very much. I might have DNF but I kept hoping it would get better.
So depressing. You have a Mexican family searching for a better life and the wealthy white family who slide into cruelty.
The characters aren't very well developed.
Sherry Howland
Jul 21, 2010 rated it it was amazing
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
Feb 28, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: belletristik, usa
Was ist das eigentlich mit mir und T.C. Boyle, dass es nahezu keinen Roman gibt, der mich gänzlich von den Socken reisst und mich restlos begeistert? Gut dieses Buch ist gut - ok was sage ich - es ist sogar sehr gut, aber irgendwas ist immer, sodass ich erst einmal wirklich vollen Herzens 5 Punkte vergeben konnte. Diesmal bin ich irgendwo bei 4,5 und runde wohlwollend auf.

Es fing ganz wunderbar an: Ganz Boyle untypisch sparte sich der Autor das ewige Herumgelabere warf den Leser mitten in die Ge
Nov 16, 2007 rated it did not like it
Shelves: reviewed
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
Mar 22, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
M.L. Rudolph
Oct 07, 2011 rated it did not like it
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
Maya Day
Jul 26, 2014 rated it did not like it
Books upon books written by white people have charted my entire high school English experience, and when I learned that our summer reading book would be an “open-minded” book about the struggle of Latino immigrants, I assumed a Latino author had written it and I was genuinely excited for a real and fresh take on this experience. Lo and behold I see a portrait of the author, a white man, on the back cover. Of course I didn’t even need to see a portrait of the author, because the first chapter was ...more
Ted Burke
Apr 03, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 29, 2009 rated it did not like it
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
Jan 15, 2015 rated it liked it
I liked this book a lot.......until I started reaching the end. So there goes a star. I disliked the end because not one calamity but eight follow one after another! You lose touch with reality. Sure, each of these things could have happened but probably not all of them. (view spoiler) ...more
Lisa Vegan
Jun 24, 2007 rated it really liked it
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
Judy Buckley
Feb 01, 2008 rated it did not like it
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.
Dec 04, 2007 rated it it was ok
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
Oct 18, 2015 rated it really liked it
I have read this book so long ago that I will have to reread it to review it. I still have it on my shelf and remember how good it was. It made a lasting impression on me.

I just want to get it into my Goodreads shelves.
Jan 18, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
That last sentence: Man, oh man, did it give me goosebumps. It almost made me re-think my rating and bump it to 4 stars. Beautiful.

In the end, I'm sticking with 3.

Because this was an unbalanced read. Some passages jumped right off of the page (no doubt T.C. Boyle can write). I enjoyed the audiobook performance from start to finish, and am glad to have listened to it. I'm definitely going to read more by Boyle. But I was really bothered with his approach to such politically and socially-charged s
Jun 17, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: everyone
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: selection of our local book club
Shelves: fiction
T.C. Boyle's tale of rich v. poor and indigenous v. alien feels so contemporary, it might have been written in 2017, Year One of America's moral decline. Yet, it was written in 1995 and from his epigraph, a quote from John Steinbeck's GRAPES OF WRATH, Boyle reminds us that this country has a long history of both demonizing and exploiting the poor. He even expands the idea of the gated community into the idea of a walled community, and ridicules both for their disingenuous claims of protection in ...more
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
Margaret Tufo
Mar 09, 2008 rated it really liked it
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
Sep 03, 2008 rated it liked it
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
Nov 27, 2015 rated it really liked it
Although it was published in 1995, TC Boyle's The Tortilla Curtain could not be more relevant today. He tells parallel stories of affluent Americans seeking refuge from L.A. in the canyons beyond its perimeter and indigent immigrants also living in those canyons--but not in beautiful homes--while trying to make a life and a family on a day laborer's wages and at the mercy of nature, which is not very merciful.

Cándido and América come from Tepotzlan, an enchanting town in Morelos not that far fro
Christopher Lele
Apr 17, 2007 rated it it was amazing
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
Sep 07, 2014 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemporary
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
Jan 09, 2009 rated it it was amazing
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
Allison Floyd
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
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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
“There are always surprises. Life may be inveterately grim and the surprises disproportionately unpleasant, but it would be hardly worth living if there were no exceptions, no sunny days, no acts of random kindness.” 34 likes
“We didn’t have jobs, not in any real sense—jobs were a myth, a rumor—so we held on in grad school, semester after semester, for lack of anything better to do. We got financial aid, of course, and accrued debt on our student loans. Our car, a hand-me-down from Mallory’s mother, needed tires and probably everything else into the bargain. We wrote papers, graded papers, got A’s and B’s in the courses we took, and doled out A’s and B’s in the courses we taught. Sometimes we felt as if we were actually getting somewhere, but the truth was, like most people, we were just marking time.” 0 likes
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