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The Tortilla Curtain

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3.65  ·  Rating details ·  25,748 ratings  ·  3,054 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)

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3.65  · 
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 ·  25,748 ratings  ·  3,054 reviews


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Rachel
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
F
Jul 22, 2013 rated it did not like it
Shelves: usa, dont-like, 2015
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.
Nolan
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
...more
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
Dorie  - Traveling Sister :)
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
...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
...more
Michael
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
...more
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
Cyndi
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.
Bobby
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
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
...more
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
mark
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
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
...more
Jessica
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
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.
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
...more
Chrissie
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
AnitaDurt
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
Ms.pegasus
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
Laura
Jan 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
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.
Margitte
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.
Sharon
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
...more
Judy
I stopped by my local library and started scanning the shelves for a book with an orange cover that would qualify for a Rainbow Challenge that I am participating in. This book looked intriguing with the great cover and story centered around illegal immigrants in California, a topic I have never read about before. I'm afraid the cover was the best part of the book.

Between the inconsistencies, stating one thing, then a few paragraphs later something that didn't jive, the drab characters, drama th
...more
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
Cbj
Sep 20, 2018 rated it liked it
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
...more
Katrina
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
...more
Suzanne
Dec 12, 2007 rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: People that don't mind feeling depressed everytime they open the book
Recommended to Suzanne by: Jane & John
It is a rare thing for me to start a book and not finish it, but this is what I have decided to do. Multiple people told me this was such an awesome book but I can't take how depressing it is. Maybe it is because I work with a lot of immigrants that it bothered me so much. I was on a total reading kick and stoked to get to this one but every time I had time to read I thought "oh, that is too depressing, I don't want to read that right now..." so I didn't. And then I didn't read for about 6 month ...more
Sean
Jul 18, 2007 rated it did not like it
I have to admit. I gave up. None of the characters interested me in the slightest. They were chock full of cliches, flat and two-dimesional, and just plain boring. Maybe if you make it all the way to the end, that's part of what possibly makes this story interesting—that one, or all, break out of the stereotypes and become beautiful butterflies, but I have to ask, if the story is mind numbingly boring up to that point, then you've possibly made it impossible for people to see your brilliance.
Robert
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
...more
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topics  posts  views  last activity   
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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 seventeen novels and eleven 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 Distinguished Professor of English at the ...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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