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The Tortilla Curtain

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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 starvation in a makeshift camp deep in the ravine. And from the moment a freak accident brings Cándido and Delaney into intimate contact, these four and their opposing worlds gradually intersect in what becomes a tragicomedy of error and misunderstanding.

355 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1995

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About the author

T. Coraghessan Boyle

160 books2,644 followers
T. Coraghessan Boyle (also known as T.C. Boyle, is a U.S. novelist and short story writer. Since the late 1970s, he has published eighteen novels and twleve collections of 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
Professor of English at the University of Southern California since 1978, when he founded the school's undergraduate creative writing program.

He grew up in the small town on the Hudson Valley that he regularly fictionalizes as Peterskill (as in widely anthologized short story Greasy Lake). Boyle changed his middle name when he was 17 and exclusively used Coraghessan for much of his career, but now also goes by T.C. Boyle.

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5 stars
7,459 (23%)
4 stars
11,658 (37%)
3 stars
7,867 (25%)
2 stars
3,076 (9%)
1 star
1,380 (4%)
Displaying 1 - 30 of 3,825 reviews
Profile Image for Mario the lone bookwolf.
793 reviews3,608 followers
June 12, 2022
This is truly no literature for the faint of heart, but a great piece of social criticism screaming out of each page of this work.

Reread 2022 with extended review

Disturbing for in your face reasons
Boyle has a unique writing style by dissecting the problems of trends, ages, immanent structural malfunctions, human behavior, etc., and showing them in a grim, dark way. Here lies the problem that many readers might get offended or simply disturbed by the way he describes the mentality of whole nations by transporting their wrong ideals by implanting them into the characters.

Completely wrong reaction to the problems described
I guess that many haters simply don´t like the fact that he mirrors their thinking and mentality and that´s the worst one could do with those people, because as the old sayings go: "Haters gonna hate" what leads to the wisdom of "Don´t feed the troll." There will certainly be readers too that just don´t like his writing style, but I believe that much of the negative criticism and the reason Boyle isn´t as widely known as he could and should, lies in this dilemma.

Not for everyone
This is no fun read, it´s a total downer and close to a fictional, sociological study and something that definitively stays in mind because the topics it deals with are omnipresent grievances. It simply and drastically shows the results of racism and discrimination, unfairly distributed wealth, and the horrible manifestations of it.

A wiki walk can be as refreshing to the mind as a walk through nature in this completely overrated real life outside books:
Profile Image for Rachel.
152 reviews
December 29, 2010
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 shock that people could be so "unaware;" they specifically purchase a "free-range" turkey for Thanksgiving) ... but at the same time, the author underscores how wasteful they are, with their brand new cars, car-centric lifestyle, expensive house built in wildfire country, desires for an even larger house, complete disregard for the suffering of the "illegals" ... it's like the couple in the book give themselves a lot of "brownie points" for all these details, while missing the big picture.

That is something of particular concern, I think, for "socially conscious" and environmentally minded folks. For example: a person can get way up on their soapbox about bringing reusable bags to the store, while trashing the environment by driving to the store in a gas-hog and after getting there, filling the bags with all kinds of inessential crap (most likely: made in China! literally, as we put the stuff in our shopping bag, we can be overheard, criticizing the Chinese for being big polluters, but the factories doing the polluting are the ones making all the stuff we buy! so who is really to blame?). It's an awful thing for privileged people to look down our* noses at people who have less than us. Especially when a lot of the social inequity in the world is caused by the wasteful practices of the modernized countries. The book illustrates the COUNTER-ARGUMENT to the belief held by many privileged people, that wealth and privilege stem from being STRONGER PEOPLE somehow (smarter, harder working, more motivated, etc), than the people who are poor. (And therefore: many privileged people feel justified in trampling on the rights and needs of poor people.) Because it illustrates this point so well, I think this book is excellent.

(*Note: I count myself as a privileged person, for sure. As such, I know how easy it is to forget that I personally haven't earned that. If I had been born in a different situation, I'd have a totally different life. This book is very good at reminding us of this.)

Also, I *really* liked the ending. No matter how F'ed up the world is, no matter how much suffering and betrayal we have endured as individuals, it is still possible to find within us, a heart of goodness, to help others in need. That was pretty much what I got out of the final line of the book. I found it very uplifting!

Another thing I found interesting in reading the reviews: many people saw the white couple, Kyra & Delaney, as the villains, while seeing America & Candido as the underdog heroes. This was surprising to me. I actually thought that both couples were equally sympathetic or unsympathetic. I felt that both couples were stereotypes, made more believable by the human touches that the author added (America mustering the courage to go into town when Candido was hurt, Kyra's thoughtfulness in getting Delaney the step-ladder, Delaney putting aside the fight over "the wall" and kissing Kyra passionately in the grocery store, Candido killing household pets in his desperation to keep his family alive, Delaney destroying the photos showing who the real graffiti artist was) ... so, one of the redeeming qualities, I think, was the feeling that the author was not "taking sides" or villainizing one group or the other.
Profile Image for F.
294 reviews252 followers
August 6, 2017
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.
5 reviews13 followers
November 11, 2007
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 ok, the hispanic man responds in some wicked, foreign tongue, and we're treated to a passage along the lines of: "this man wasnt speaking norwegian...no, the US doesnt share a three-thousand mile border with Norway. No...this man was Mexican, and the langue he was speaking....Spanish." I dont remember the exact passage but its something along those lines. I remembered it because it was so laughably horrible. Good lord.

Really, this book is just awful. It seems to be a favorite of quasi-literary middled aged house wife book clubs though...so, whatever, read whatever you want.

Profile Image for Amanda Jasso.
1 review11 followers
May 19, 2009
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 feelings, their thoughts, their actions, their lives. For such a deliberate approach to addressing a very sensitive issue, I don't see any trace of humanity or compassion or sense of responsibility in Boyle's writing.

The worst part is that this book continues to be used across the country in high schools and colleges as reading material on immigration reform! Another white male author part of a long line of celebrated writers shifting the American perception of minority groups. Boyle is lauded as "timely" and "provocative" by a white liberal america that is severely removed from reality. His characters are, at best, gross caricatures of the so-called reality his novel describes. My fear is that young readers will come away with less understanding and critical awareness of class struggle after reading this book in their institutions of higher learning.
Profile Image for Dorie  - Cats&Books :).
991 reviews2,765 followers
January 17, 2019
This was my first book by T.C. Boyle.

I listened to this as an audiobook which was a great way to enjoy this book as you can hear the accents of the illegals, America and Candido. The story goes back and forth between Candido an illegal Mexican immigrant and his attempt to provide shelter and food for his young pregnant wife. He brought her to America with promises of work and a better life only to find a very short supply of jobs.
They are living in a ravine outside of Los Angeles.

Meanwhile atop the mountain in a sheltered money rich area live Delaney and Kyra. He is a nature writer and she is an obsessive realtor. Their lives connect when Delaney has a car accident and hits Candido and from that moment on their lives and worlds gradually intersect in what becomes a quite tragic tale.

I will definitely read T.C. Boyle again. He writes with great character development and irony at how Delaney will fight for a coyote's life but not that of an illegal immigrant. The opposing lives and encounters keep escalating until the quite tragic end.

***one of my all time favorite books***
Profile Image for Sherry Howland.
38 reviews
July 22, 2010
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 Southern California...and Northern California, and Arizona, and Texas, and New Mexico, anywhere where the "haves" need the services and cheap back-breaking labor of the "have-nots"...then you need to get out more and leave the blinders at home!

TC sets the action early and he is relentless. The Rashoman-style serves him well, although he was brutal in his descriptions of Delaney and Kyra and their neighbors...the quintessential liberal do-gooders in their SUV's and mammoth gated communities eating up the very "wildness" they glorify while sipping Chardonnay and munching smoked sturgeon.

This book does an excellent job of throwing a spotlight on the racial discord, which unfortunately grows by leaps and bounds daily, particularly in our post-911 and Border Minutemen hysteria. What was true in 1995 has only intensified in 2010 growing to include irrational fear towards anyone "different" from the Euro-descended, workaholic, Christian villagers. Listen to the community fathers and mothers fret about homeless tent cities being moved to their 'hoods. It's a wonder we don't have torches descending on the churchyards harboring these supposed "sex perverts" and "thieves"...guilty by way of bad luck.

Read this book. Get a look at the other side of your office cleaning lady's life, the reality of that small dark man with the leaf blower or stacking the shelves in your local Wal-Mart. You owe to yourself.
Profile Image for Livia Stone.
15 reviews2 followers
October 15, 2007
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 capable of doing extraordinary things in times of utter despair. Or you can read something that makes you want to blow your brains out and smack the pretentious idiot who wrote it, who seems to think that wallowing in the wretchedness of human existence makes him an amazing writer.
Profile Image for Michael.
2 reviews4 followers
May 1, 2007
"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 estate agent and he is a house-husband, ministering to his step-son and wife and writing a local environmental column.

Delaney appears to be a classic, Eastern liberal -- although circumstances end up tearing off his veneer to reveal the darker attitudes that lurk just below the surface.

Candido is Delaney's homeless, immigrant counterpart, a Mexican with a pregnant young wife, neither of whom can catch a break.

In alternating chapters, their stories are told. The plot hurtles forward on Boyle's expert prose and the depiction of one vivid incident after another.

While Boyle does skewer the privileged white folks without much mercy, there is enough dimension and complexity here for this reader to say that the author isn't merely bashing for the sake of bashing. The problem isn't easy, the anti-immigrant reactions aren't without justification, and no pat solutions are presented. What is presented is this horrendous confluence between haves and have-nots, and an environment in which the cultural, economic and language divide is deep and disturbing and far too open to tragic misunderstandings.

This is not a problem that is going away; if anything, it has become more acute since Boyle wrote his book. I think where he succeeds the most is in getting us inside the heads of two desperate Mexican immigrants who are, at heart, honorable people. He helps us understand why they were driven to leave their homeland, gives us empathy for their plight -- while at the same time, managing to genuinely irritate us about their bad judgments.

One is left, I think, with the sense that we -- as a nation of immigrants -- need to pay far closer attention to where we are going, and to develop public policies and resources toward genuine solutions. Terrible burdens are being paid every day for lack of this -- on both sides of the equation.

Profile Image for Bobby.
393 reviews19 followers
December 3, 2007
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 heavy on trite cliches with no development of any of the main characters (except Delaney), all of whom are one-dimensional and pretty much only evoke pity or dislike. I hope Mr Boyle's other book are better!
Profile Image for Cyndi.
2,338 reviews97 followers
November 7, 2017
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.
Profile Image for Maya Day.
45 reviews2 followers
November 21, 2014
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 from the perspective of a liberal white male, and of course, when you’re a white guy and you’re writing about the experience of a non-white person, you need to juxtapose it with the white experience to relate to all your white readers! And, of course, the non-white characters in this books are gross, exaggerated stereotypes. The Mexican men are violent, animalistic, aggressively sexual, sexist thefts, while the one Mexican woman is a submissive, flat character. Although his white characters aren’t supposed to be likable, by writing a novel like this, trying to encapsulate the immigrant experience while also adding the white experience, makes him almost as bad as the white characters he creates. Of course Boyle had good intentions, as do most liberal white authors who attempt to take on social/political issues that do not include them, but when one has never experienced racism, when one has never had the experience of an immigrant, it is nearly impossible to pull off a well-written and inoffensive piece of writing to encapsulate it. I’m not saying that white authors should steer away from writing about people who aren’t white (please do), but the phrase “write what you know” is pretty solid advice. There are plenty of books written by white authors (for example Life of Pi) that are beautiful and inoffensive, but mainly because they aren’t about social/political problems the people they write about face, but rather a universal experience that can relate to everyone. It isn’t even the subtle racism of this book that annoys me, it is simply not a smart book. The symbols are blatantly obvious. (the names América and Resurrecion/the coyotes and the dogs/the Spanish styled houses and names). The book is obviously trying to be smart and progressive, but it’s a shallow, flat, and unimpressive work that I am shocked would be considered for an AP Language Arts class. I can see all the white people in my class praising this book, learning from it, calling it progressive; after all, it was written for a white audience, which makes me, again, excluded from the amazement.
Profile Image for Alexandra .
861 reviews269 followers
February 28, 2017
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 Geschichte - in zwei Welten oben und unten, arm und reich, Amerikaner und Mexikaner abwechselnd beschrieben.
America, auch the Tortilla Curtain, habe ich ganz bewußt heuer aus meinem SUB gezogen, denn in Anbetracht der Tatsache, was sich gerade mit Donald Trump in Amerika an Rassismus gegen die Mexikaner abspielt, ist dieses Werk sicher grade topaktuell. Dabei fiel mir auf, dass der Roman eigentlich vor 22 Jahren als überspannte Satire mit auf die Spitze getriebenen klischeehaften Archetypen geplant war. Leider hat die Realität die Satire schon längst überholt. Die ehemals bürgerliche grüne Linke ist in die Jahre gekommen und hat sich schleichend von grün zu braun (und das meine ich wie es hier steht) entwickelt - ist somit faulig geworden. Mit den Tieren hat man noch immer vollstes Mitleid und Verständnis, und lebt unter ihnen ohne Furcht auch wenn die wilden Coyoten einem zwei Hunde töten, der Fremde an der Ecke ist aber gefährlich gehört ausgesperrt, vernichtet und nötigenfalls nihiliert. Ein Menschenleben zählt nix ein Tierleben umso mehr, deshalb fordert man auch, völlig alle Relationen verlierend, vehement die Todesstrafe für Carnivoren und andere, die Tiere aus welchen Gründen auch immer töten.

Diese BOBOS - ja es gibt diesen Typus bereits zu Hauf auch bei uns und eine Bezeichnung wurde auch gleich kreiert - bevölkern in Wien bereits mehrere Bezirke - wollen in schöne Ecken ziehen auch aufs Land und sobald sie dort sind, agitieren sie gegen alle anderen und sperren sie aus. Dies ist auch die perfekte Analogie zum Roman. Man hat viel Geld, lebt nachhaltig und zeigt überheblich mit seinem Lebensstil und dem moralischen Zeigefinger auf die Armen, die man erstens unbedingt aus seinem eigenen Leben hinausschmeissen muss, und die einfach gezwungen werden sollten, sich anders zu verhalten. Natürlich ist man für Ausländer so ganz prinzipiell, aber sicher nicht in der eigenen privaten Waldorfschule - wo kämen wir denn da hin! Selbstverständlich nutzt man den eigenen SUV aber nur gaanz selten, um ins Wochenendhaus in der Natur zu fahren, aber wehe ein armer Tropf von Pendler vom Land, der nur in die Arbeit fahren muss, braucht einen Parkplatz im eigenen Stadtwohnbezirk, der soll ruhig öffentlich fahren der Umwelt zuliebe 2 Stunden mehr pro Tag verplempern, denn die Parkplätze sind nur für die eigne Community reserviert.

Ich kann ja über die derzeitigen Leute in Amerika nicht reden, weil ich nicht dort wohne, aber da dieser Achetyp auch bei uns schon komplett durchgeschlagen hat, kann man diesen Roman von Boyle als regelrecht prophetisch bezeichnen, dass die 22 jahre alte "Dystopie" der Gesellschaft exakt Realität wurde. Delany ist Umweltschützer und Demokrat hat sich mitten in die Natur gebaut, die er respektiert, aber wehe er sieht ein mexikanisches Gesicht der Armut, dann kennt er keine Gnade mehr. Da wird zwar schon zu Beginn noch mit ein paar prinzipiellen ethischen Skrupeln gekämpft, aber durch die perfekte Täter-Opfer Umkehr wird das mexikanische Opfer eines Autounfalls, bei dem man erstens medizinische Hilfeleistung unterlassen und die illegale Notlage ausnutzend einen Schwerverletzten mit 20 Dollar abgespeist hat, zu einem mexikanischen Betrüger, der einem absichtlich ins Auto gelaufen ist und somit um 20 Dollar Betrug begangen hat. So geht es in der abgeschotteten gutbürgerlich reichen Siedlung weiter: Erst kommt ein Tor, um die braven anständigen Leute vor dem bösen armen Gesocks zu schützen und dann eine Mauer und dann bewaffnet man sich bis an die Zähne.

Auch die mexikanische Sicht - die Gesellschaft unten wird sehr gut beschrieben, mit wenig Sozialromantik behaftet, sondern genauso brutal und schäbig wie sie eben ist: Der tägliche Kampf ums Überleben von Candido dem Familienvater in spe auf der Suche nach einem Job und den anderen Armen im Canyon. Natürlich muss man als Mann auch weiter nach unten auf die Schwächeren treten, darf seine Frau verprügeln, wenn man nicht gut drauf ist, junge Männer vergewaltigen andere Frauen ohne jede Skrupel und rauben sich einfach gegenseitig permanent aus.
So schlecht kann es einem gar nicht gehen, dass man nicht ohne Not noch jemandem, der schutzlos ist, etwas ganz Furchtbares antun kann.

Irgendwann kurz vor Ende fand ich die Geschichte dann etwas langweilig und vorhersehbar. Ist man normalerweise bei Boyle ganz überfordert von dem Gewusel an Aktivitäten, Beschreibungen, Figuren und Handlung, ist diesmal irgendwie alles zu normal und dramaturgisch wenig überraschend. Das ist auch der kleine Kritikpunkt am Roman. Diesmal werden die typischen Schwächen des Autors in Bezug auf Übertreibung so unterrated, dass sie nicht zu Stärken, sondern zu erneuten aber nur ganz leichten Schwächen mutieren.

Das Ende ist dann wieder grossartig, einerseits sozial-romantisch klischeehaft, aber im Sinne des brutalen Credos des Romans dennoch überraschend.
Profile Image for mark.
10 reviews4 followers
March 23, 2008
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 from CNN. Both the book and the political situation have an unresolved ending, but both point towards living with it. T.C. Boyle's writing is not particularly astounding in its craft, but I found the story to be quite engaging. Similar to "The House of Sand and Fog" the characters are annoyingly short-sighted and narrow minded, and you can see a trajectory that will surely be disastrous for all involved. Boyle gives his characters ways out of these situations, ways that are obvious to the reader, but the characters themselves are blind to these and invariably head the wrong direction. It would be a great gift to be able to read our own lives, see our own prejudices and foolishness as well as we can see them in Boyle's characters.
Profile Image for M.L. Rudolph.
Author 6 books91 followers
December 14, 2011
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'd give it.

A phony, arrogant, white man's tale full of cut out characters in a sitcom setting aiming for reality style dramedy.

What a waste of talent.
Profile Image for Hendrik.
409 reviews77 followers
November 17, 2019
Selbst nach fast fünfundzwanzig Jahren hat das Buch nichts von seiner Aktualität eingebüßt. Das spricht einerseits von der Weitsicht (oder dem Glück) des Autors, andererseits ist es auch eine deprimierende Feststellung. Man hat das Gefühl, dass die Fiktion von der Realität längst eingeholt oder sogar übertroffen wurde. Einiges was bei Boyle noch absurd überzeichnet erscheint, entspricht heute vielfach den gelebten Tatsachen. Zudem haben sich die gesellschaftlichen Konflikte über die im Roman angesprochenen Probleme von illegaler Einwanderung, Fremdenfeindlichkeit und sozialer Segregation, inzwischen eher noch verschärft (und das nicht allein in den USA). Es sind wahrlich keine leichten Themen, die hier behandelt werden. Dennoch versteht es Boyle das Gleichgewicht zwischen Ernsthaftigkeit und Unterhaltung zu halten. So hat die Geschichte durchaus ihre komischen Seiten, auch wenn einem öfters das Lachen im Hals stecken bleibt und am Ende die Tragik überwiegt. Über den Schluss kann man geteilter Meinung sein, die verhängnisvollen Ereignisse erreichen ihren destruktiven Höhepunkt. Hatte die Handlung zuvor schon einige unglaubwürdige Momente, wird das Ganze noch auf die Spitze getrieben. Meiner Meinung nach passt es aber zu einer Geschichte, die von vornherein auf Eskalation angelegt ist, um den Finger in die Wunden der gesellschaftlichen Verhältnisse zu legen.
Profile Image for Chrissie.
2,735 reviews1,469 followers
March 3, 2015
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.

But what did I like? And I did like most of the book very much. This book is about illegal Mexican immigrants in a suburb to Los Angeles, probably in the 21st Century. They are eking out an existence. Alongside the illegal immigrant couple is another couple, two wealthy Americans living in an exclusive walled-in community. He is a nature writer, she a real-estate agent of exclusive homes. Both are liberals, one child, dogs and of course a swimming pool. You get the picture. You compare the "haves" and the "have-nots". The beauty of the book is that you understand both and you watch the tension mount between the two. You cannot help but wonder if you too would get irrational. Do you protect what you have worked hard to achieve? Or are you compassionate and give and give and give…. and loose as a consequence? I loved this book for its ability to make me understand both sides. You are right there, and you are wondering how you would act given such circumstances. You watch as fissures creep into the wealthy couple's relationship.

The audiobook is narrated by the author himself. He reads quickly, but it is not hard to follow. Also, through the tempo, suspense increases, and that goes overboard occasionally.

I do recommend this book, regardless of the ridiculous ending, because you are there, in another person's shoes. You will come to question if your own praiseworthy intentions and behavior might falter.
Profile Image for Ted Burke.
158 reviews21 followers
May 12, 2012
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 , preferring safe memberships in organizations forever raising money for non controversial progressive causes; a check or a credit card donation was the exercise of their social responsibility, an acceptable penance for what is largely a consumerist lifestyle. Boyle does not sugar coat, euphemise nor glorify the awful trials and fate of the Mexican couple that had stolen over the border looking for a better life. Against a backdrop of a terrain of sunshine, opulence and the saturation of Conspicuous Consumption, Boyle tenders life at the margins, at the edges of glittering downtowns and cascading suburbs.

Boyle is stinging and blunt in the way he describes the ordeals economic desperation that drives good people, and he is unsparing at offering up a priceless, painfully recognizable banter of a privileged psychology that inspects the hard facts of injustice and responds by trying to worm their way out of any sense of responsibility for others less well endowed.
Profile Image for Ms.pegasus.
702 reviews138 followers
June 19, 2018
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 a layered series of incidents.

Delaney Mossbacher is the kind of liberal the reader might be expected to identify with. Yet early in the book he is affronted by the mere idea of a homeless migrant camping in the valley below: “Camping. Living. Dwelling. Making the trees and bushes and the natural habitat of Topanga State Park into his own private domicile, crapping in the chaparral, dumping his trash behind rocks, polluting the stream and ruining it for everyone else....Delaney felt his guilt turn to anger, to outrage....it was people like this Mexican or whatever he was who were responsible, thoughtless people, stupid people, people who wanted to turn the whole world into a garbage dump, a little Tijuana...” (p.11)

What he fails to grasp is this Mexican's very presence here is the result of a cascade of events originating in a classic supply and demand scenario. American farms needed migrant workers; Mexico had an ample unemployed supply of labor. Cándido is one of these laborers. After the potato harvest in Idaho he heads for California, extending his stay in order to work as a landscaper on the wealthy estates of Los Angeles. Inevitably, La Migra finds and deports him. Cándido's earnings are left behind under the sink in his apartment. He will literally be dumped just across the border in Tijuana where Mexican police confiscate any remaining possessions. Tijuana — where Cándido once witnessed the rape and murder of a 12-year old girl by street gangs. Yes, Cándido is all too familiar with Tijuana, and not just from a superficial glance at the newspaper. Abandoned by his first wife while earning money north of the border, Cándido is determined to hold on to seventeen year old América, now pregnant with his child. “She was América, hope of the future.” (p.24)

With names like América and Cándido, the reader might be anticipating something along the lines of an allegory. Instead, Boyle presents deeply flawed characters and a skillfully compressed plot structure with both broad and subtle irony. The Mossbachs dwell in the rural equivalent of a penthouse. Their affluent community of faux-Hispanic houses is situated at the top of Topanga Canyon. Here, Boyle does not miss the opportunity for some additional subtle irony. The development is named Arroyo Blanco (White Creek). (He will find an opportunity for wordplay again, much later in the book). Cándido and América survive at the bottom of the canyon, near an algae covered stream accessed through a tangle of scrub and brambles. Delaney begins his days squeezing fresh oranges. His practically new car bears personalized plates. Candido and América will soon find themselves scrounging for food in a KFC dumpster. They travel on foot, exposed to the heat and harsh winds. Kyra Mossbach is a successful realtor who works hard for her hefty commissions. But can Cándido and América be said to work any less hard for their meager sub-minimum wages when they can actually find work? In truth, they work even harder and suffer unbearable indignities. Boyle adds a further irony. Kyra causes the destruction of the Labor Exchange where the migrants pick up day jobs. Cándido is fortunate enough to be hired by Al Lopez — Kyra's contractor. He labors for $50 a day, building a fence in the Mossbach yard. After the Lopez gig, his prospects for finding another job fall to almost zero with the demise of the Labor Exchange.

All of these characters are spectacularly lacking in self-awareness. Badly injured, Cándido's attitude toward América's working is derived as much from cultural machismo as protectiveness. Meanwhile, Delaney congratulates himself on the common interests he and Kyra share. He conveniently ignores the conflict of interest inherent between property development and the environment. Kyra's veneer of liberalism is even thinner than Delaney's. Appalled by the sight of the Labor Exchange, “She stopped in the middle of the block, overwhelmed with anger and disgust and a kind of sinking despair. She didn't see things the way Delaney did — he was from the East Coast, he didn't understand, he hadn't lived with it all his life. Somebody had to do something about these people — they were ubiquitous, prolific as rabbits, and they were death for business.” (p.158)

Delaney writes nature columns for a small publication. It's an odd avocation for someone almost obsessive about order and organization. His latest theme, “Introduced Species,” ignores the irony that Homo sapiens might be considered an introduced species, at least to the ecology of Topanga Canyon, a fact illustrated by the predations of coyotes. The column he writes is an over-the-top romanticization of nature. Written from a first person point of view, it reads as a self-absorbed contemplation of rural tranquility.

Even América is so much a victim through most of this story that the reader will cringe. She longs for the comfort of her family, and the cooking of her mother. Yet, she willingly abandoned all of that when she agreed to follow Cándido across the border. When she finally bursts into rage and recrimination, impotent as this resistance is, one feels she is finally confronting reality.

Daily life bruises each of these characters. Each incident triggers an increasingly lower flash point, until emotions override rational thought. Boyle conveys this through language. Cándido increasingly reverts to the Chicano perjorative gabaccho when thinking about the Americans.

Boyle knows how to shape a story. His prose flows unobtrusively. The emotional states of his characters build from guilt to defensiveness to rage. A few deft images: the coyote, the indifferent automobiles with their enormous destructive power, the Da Ros property — its perfection insufficient to deter its owner from suicide — become effective synecdoches that reverberate through the story. Finally, few books have ended with such a satisfying conclusion. The writing and the relevance of its theme earn this book five stars.

Interview and Reader's Guide: https://www.tcboyle.com/books/book_10...
This interview on Boyles thoughts about writing display his spontaneous wit and boundless curiosity: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Jj1Q1...
Profile Image for Semjon.
638 reviews326 followers
February 25, 2020
Es gibt viele dystopische Klassiker, deren Vision haben sich leider schon lange erfüllt. Dieses Buch ist weit davon entfernt, ein Klassiker zu sein, noch wollte TC Boyle Mitte der 90er Jahre hier seine Hellsichtigkeit beweisen. Doch wenn man liest, dass eine kalifornische Siedlung in den Canyons nahe der mexikanischen Grenze eine Mauer um ihr schickes Wohnviertel bauen lässt, um unliebsame Coyoten (die ihre Haustiere fressen) und arme Latinos (die auf allen Supermarktparkplätzen herumlungern und nach Arbeit betteln) fern zu halten, dann kommt einen zwangsläufig Trumps wahnsinnige Mauer-Idee in den Sinn.

Dies war mein drittes Buch von TC Boyle, und es gefiel mir nicht so gut wie "Wenn das Schlachten vorbei ist" und "Drop City". Auffällig ist beim Autor, dass er bei allen drei Büchern gerne Schwarz-Weiß-Zeichnung vornimmt und zwar auf gesellschaftlicher wie auch auf geografischer Ebene. Im Fall von America trifft Arm auf Reich, der Süden auf den Norden, doch diesmal war mir die Darstellung zu plakativ. Im Grunde dreht sich das Buch um vier Personen, genauer zwei Paare, das amerikanische Wohlstandspaar kreuzt immer wieder die Wege des mexikanischen Tagelöhnerpaars, welches wild campend vor den Toren der eingemauerten Wohnsiedlung übernachtet. Der Autor will durch seine drastische Darstellung der Mittellosigkeit auf der einen Seite und der Dekadenz auf der anderen Seite bewusst provozieren. Wenn aber jedes Kleidungsstück, welches das amerikanische Paar trägt mit genauer Nennung des Mikrofaser-Stoffes der Edelmarke bezeichnet wird, nur um zu verdeutlichen, dass wie sehr Gore-Tex-Jacken von Timberland im Gegensatz zum zerschlissenen Hemd des Wanderarbeiters stehen, dann wird dies auf die Länge des Buchs irgendwann ermüdend. Nach dem interessanten Einstieg in die Geschichte, als der Amerikaner den Mexikaner mit seinem japanischen Mittelklassewagen aus Versehen anfährt und ihn mit 20 Dollar abspeist als Schmerzensgeld, zieht sich die Geschichte im Mittelteil doch sehr hin. Erst ein Großbrand, den wiederum aus Versehen vom Mexikanern beim Grillen eines Truthahn in der trockenen Natur ausgelöst wird, bringt gegen Ende etwas Leben in die Erzählung. Das Ende ist dagegen in ihrer Symbolhaftigkeit fast schon tragisch-kitschig.

Wie immer sind Boyle-Bücher sehr gut zu lesen. Seine Formulierungen sind scharfzüngig und die erzählten Begebenheit kurios. Auch wenn die Konzeption der Geschichte mir nicht immer gefiel, so ist es doch ein zeitloses Thema, welches in Zukunft die Welt immer stärker beschäftigen wird.
Profile Image for Laura.
822 reviews243 followers
January 25, 2019
This book is not as cut and dried as one might think on the social issues. I appreciate the author giving me enough plot to keep me reading but having me think from start to finish about the social issues presented. If his other books are this good, sign me up.
Profile Image for Lisa Vegan.
2,760 reviews1,218 followers
November 19, 2007
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 topics & themes: most especially America’s illegal immigration and Mexico’s dire poverty problems, but also: coyotes & nature/desperate Mexican immigrants/affluent white southern Californians; different kinds of prisons; the drive for survival; nature & human nature; the presence or absence of safety; inequities: have and have-nots human beings; etc.

I haven’t uttered the phrase “it isn’t fair” since I was seven because I’m acutely aware that nothing about life is fair. But, I felt somewhat depressed and despairing when reading this book. Maybe that was part of the point. I do live in California, and I’ve known people from both “sides” of the human condition presented here, and plenty of those (like me) who are in-between the two extremes. I do appreciate that there wasn’t an attempt to give any easy answers regarding illegal immigration.
Profile Image for Jessica.
10 reviews1 follower
May 24, 2011
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, I found no such point. The author is supposedly well known for skilled use of irony and satire, but I find myself agreeing with a review done by the New York Times; the author seems to have grown arrogant with praise, and his usual skill at satire becomes a very tiring volley of cheap shots. While it is easy to relate to the characters in matters of racial awareness and fear, I still found myself growing increasingly annoyed with them as I continued to read.

I definitely don't recommend this book.
2 reviews
February 2, 2008
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.
Profile Image for Margitte.
1,163 reviews512 followers
October 18, 2015
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.
Profile Image for Sharon.
248 reviews101 followers
January 19, 2018
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 subject matter. Boyle clearly had an agenda, and for the better part of the read, his argument came across as oversimplified (especially after finishing the deliciously complicated, messy, challenging, put-your-balls-out-there manifesto The Mandibles). "Privileged" characters Delaney and Kyra are given equal screentime to illegal immigrants Candido and America, and unfortunately read like caricatures, with no redeeming qualities. (Delaney and Kyra: BAD. Candido and America: GOOD.)

This is still a thought-provoking read about what happens when two classes live side by side, probably more relevant now than ever. But it read more like a parable to me than a novel. It's a book I'd gladly give to someone very young (I felt similarly about the wildly-popular The Hate U Give) to introduce them to complicated subject material, and think about the world differently. But it left me wanting a lot more.
Profile Image for AnitaDurt.
37 reviews3 followers
December 4, 2007
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's mutual shitty situation. But it is a scary-real portrayal of the day to day difficulties of being a poor and illegal immigrant in the USA. My aunt gave me a warning when she gave me this book, and my other aunt told me that she couldn't ever relax when reading it. Yeah, pretty much.
Profile Image for Jenna.
673 reviews25 followers
August 6, 2019
4.5 stars rounded up. I recently read this book for a college course and am so glad it was assigned. What a great book! I read it twice and it was even better the second time around. It really makes you think from all sides of the immigration equation and how things can spiral out of control, even with the best intentions. With the current political climate I wish everyone would read this story.
Profile Image for Robert.
Author 14 books96 followers
November 28, 2015
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 from Mexico City I happen to know fairly well. She is 17. He is in his early 30s. They have entered the U.S. with no formalities, are brutalized in passage, and barely survive on minimal food and in minimal shelter.

Delaney is a naturalist and his wife Kyra is a realtor. He's a liberal environmentalist who gradually turns against what he, and others, feel is the endless invasion of what Donald Trump would call crooks, murderers, and rapists.

The canyons surrounding L.A. are not "better" than Tepotzlan. They are not more beautiful, welcoming, or special, but they are associated with American wealth, and that's what draws Mexicans without visas to the U.S. Boyle describes Cándido and América's plight poignantly, the insults to their dignity and their dreams,their desperation,imagination, and fortitude.

Boyle is less kind to Kyra and Delaney, self-absorbed and convinced of the rightness of their wealth and their commitment to pristine nature, far from L.A.'s freeways.

Quite skillfully Boyle engineers a plot that generates lots of truths about what both couples feel toward one another, but he tells a tale that is very difficult to resolve.

Today (November, 2015), we are witnessing the continuing migration of economic and political refugees from the Middle East, South Asia and Africa into Europe. Their circumstances,and Europe's problems, are extreme, but anyone who knows the U.S.-Mexico border knows that our two countries have been experiencing extreme migratory difficulties for decades.

As a diplomat many years ago I had responsibility for certain aspects of U.S.-Mexican border relations. My mandate stretched from Tijuana to Brownsville. I watched Mexicans and others cross into the U.S. at night using infrared binoculars, I visited maquiladoras, universities, elementary schools, city halls, environmental disasters, and the searing, bleached wastes of the desert on which Trump says he will build a beautiful 2,000 mile wall. (This is really, really insulting to the intelligence of the American electorate, by the way. It's shameless buffoonery.)

Boyle masterfully gets at all this in fictional terms. He depicts the resentments and struggles in his characters' lives and circumstances with strong, vivid, accurate writing. In the process, he dramatizes the essentially unresolvable dilemmas of human migration between the Third World and the First.

What we see in Europe these days is mind boggling, but it is more or less a tenth of what has transpired between Mexico and the U.S for the last five decades. If it is true, and I really don't know that it is, that we have 12 million non-citizen migrants in the U.S. from south of the border, think of how that would look should it make the nightly news on an ongoing basis. But unless a conservative, ill-informed and unrealistic (not to mention heartless) politician is out there throwing red meat to his equally conservative, ill-informed and unrealistic supporters, this wave of humanity is only sporadically covered.

Attitudes change in the border zone depending how close you are to the actual line of demarcation. People in Tijuana and San Diego don't look at migration the same way that people in Hermosillo and Calabasas look at it. The same is true when you think of El Paso and Juarez in contrast to Monterrey and Austin. The border zone proper, 25 miles or so on either side, is a world unto itself, comes up with its own solutions, and begs for and seldom receives adequate resources from the federal government. Deeper in either the U.S. and Mexico, the migration phenomenon becomes more alien, spooky, and threatening. Delaney in Boyle's novel does a marvelous job of totally misinterpreting Cándido. He's constantly wrong, which is not to say Cándido really has any idea what he's doing.

The problem is survival, it's miscommunication, it's cultural and linguistic differences, it's need on the one side, surfeit on the other.

I think it's best that novels do not try to propose policy solutions. Boyle avoids this. He looks at human quandaries and makes them real for the reader. Then it's up to the reader to decide: is the way we run this world the right way?

Probably not.

Profile Image for Jayakrishnan.
488 reviews167 followers
September 21, 2018
Did Donald Trump or someone who managed his election campaign read The Tortilla Curtain? In the book, the residents of a gated community decide to build a wall to keep the Mexicans (who they think are responsible for the spray-painted abuses that have begun to appear on their walls) and the coyotes out of their houses. Everyone including the secular humanist protagonist falls in line behind the idea.

The stories of two couples – one an affluent white secular humanist couple and the other a poor Mexican couple who are hiding out in the backwoods looking for work are juxtaposed by T.Coragghessan Boyle. Their lives intersect at a few points in the novel. The voices of the two male characters occupy more space than the female characters. Delany the stay at home dad, nature writer and secular humanist finds that his liberal values are at odds with the realities of illegal immigration. He is not just bothered by the Mexican immigrants but also the frequent coyote attacks that lead to the loss of his wife’s beloved dogs. As the novel progresses, he turns into a blood thirsty conservative who even incites a riot against a Mexican trespasser. Boyle sort of portrays Delany as an unlikeable, hypocritical, wimpy and indecisive character. His ruthless real estate agent wife Kyra (might have inspired Annette Bening’s character in American Beauty) is nastier than him. No prices for guessing where Boyle’s sympathies lie.

Candido, the tormented Mexican with a terrible past, struggling to protect his young wife and new born baby from the vagaries of nature and the authorities is definitely more endearing. Him and his wife’s adventures trying to find work in California and their life in the backwoods are the best part of the book.

This is my second book by T.C.Boyle. He is a writer who dazzles you with similes and metaphors. He is the second-best simile generator after Graham Greene. I cannot think of another writer who writes such apt similes to perfectly describe the inner dialog of a character or evoke a vivid image in the mind of the reader. But Boyle’s plot points and their developments are uninteresting. I couldn’t help but feel that he was wasting his talent with a book like The Tortilla Curtain. Just like Budding Prospects (the other TC Boyle novel that I read recently), it comes across as trite and uninspired after a certain point. The book goes on and on and the abrupt ending made me feel like Boyle did not know how to end it. Even the conspiracy angle about vested interests inside the gated community doing the spray-painted abuses themselves was banal.

The book paints a very dim view of humanity in general, especially white liberals . But I don’t think T.C.Boyle is a misanthrope. He certainly likes nature and there are some great reflections about the character and habits of the coyote in the articles written by Delaney the nature writer. But I don’t think Boyle is a big fan of human beings. I’ll read more of his books if only to enjoy his style. Maybe he is a stylish writer with nothing interesting to say. I have only read two of his books though.
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