The House of Broken Angels Summary and Reviews

The House of Broken Angels

by Luis Alberto Urrea

The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea X
The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
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  • Publishes in USA 
    Mar 6, 2018
    336 pages
    Genre: Novels

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About this book

Book Summary

The definitive Mexican-American immigrant story, at once intimate and epic, from an acclaimed storyteller.

In his final days, beloved and ailing patriarch Miguel Angel De La Cruz, known affectionately as Big Angel, has summoned his entire clan for one last legendary birthday party. But as the party approaches, his mother, nearly one hundred, dies herself, leading to a farewell doubleheader.

Across one bittersweet weekend in their San Diego neighborhood, the revelers mingle among the palm trees and cacti, celebrating the lives of Big Angel and his mother, and recounting the many tales that have passed into family lore, the acts both ordinary and heroic that brought them to a fraught and sublime country and allowed them to flourish in the land they have come to call home.

The story of the De La Cruzes is the American story. This indelible portrait of a complex family reminds us of what it means to be the first generation and to live two lives across one border. Teeming with brilliance and humor, authentic at every turn, The House of Broken Angels is Luis Alberto Urrea at his best, and it cements his reputation as a storyteller of the first rank.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Urrea (The Hummingbird's Daughter) has written a vital, vibrant book about the immigrant experience that is a messy celebration of life's common joys and sorrows." - Publishers Weekly

"Though fiction, Urrea's newest is an honest and moving portrayal of how families fall apart and come together during difficult times." - Library Journal

"Urrea once again captures the anxieties and joys of a family balanced on the borders between generations, El Norte and Mexico, and life and death. A quintessentially American story." - Booklist

"Luis Urrea is a mythmaker with the heart of a poet. He is that paradox, a gentle, kind writer who can hurt you deeply with honesty and beauty. I'm glad we have him." - Neil Gaiman, New York Times bestselling author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane

"This, the most personal book by the great American novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, is one of the most vivid and engrossing family epics of the last twenty years." - Dave Eggers, National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of The Circle

"Luis Alberto Urrea is a master storyteller, and he delivers a masterwork with The House of the Broken Angels. Stories spin on stories. There are lives intimately depicted and fully realized; losses redeemed by love; a dazzling display of narrative fireworks, each little scene a gem; and larger-than-life characters across two borders who cross all borders and become ours. We enter this house of broken angels, and through the magical power of Urrea's writing, we become healed and whole. And we laugh and tear up and shake our heads in wonder all the way to the ending of a book we don't want to end. Urrea delivers on every page. ¡Dios santo! What a storyteller! Bless his capacious heart!" - Julia Alvarez, author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents

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Reader Reviews

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Mary Anne R. (Towson, MD)

The House of Broken Angels
When I came to the last page I asked myself if if the story really ended. I wanted more.

I became very fond of Big Angel and his complicated family and their complicated lives. Big Angel is vulnerable man who is full of life, energy and kindness despite life events that could have crippled him.

This is a novel that I didn't read quickly. The art of the author is not to be rushed over. His words create not only a visual image his words transported me to places with a multitude of scents as and sounds.

This is a story that at times made me cringe, at other times laugh or cry. I especially loved Big Angel's faithfulness in writing the things he was grateful for. He started out being grateful for mangoes and later on he shows his poet side: the heart breaks open and little bright seeds fall out.

Anne G. (Austin, TX)

The House of Broken Angels
One of my favorite authors has a new novel about a big, unruly, multi-generational Mexican American family on the eve of their patriarch's final birthday.

Here are a couple of quotes that I think really reflect the beauty of the writing in this book:

"La Gloriosa was up early. She didn't know why everybody thought she was late to everything. Cabrones. She was usually up before almost everybody else. It took time to be this fine--you didn't just jump out of bed looking like the living legend of the family."

and

"Mexican fathers made speeches. He wanted to leave her with a blessing, with beautiful words to sum up a life, but there were no words sufficient to this day. But still he tried. 'All we do, mija,' he said, 'is love. Love is the answer. Nothing stops it. Not borders. Not death.'"

Mary H. (Ocala, FL)

A Beautiful Immigrant Story
This well-crafted story of a Mexican American family centers around an eventful weekend. The de la Cruz family members travel from far and wide to attend 100-year-old America's funeral and the final birthday party for Big Angel, the dying patriarch of the clan.

Funerals and final birthdays inspire reflection, storytelling and connecting with others in special ways. Big Angel and other family members relate tales of how they came to America and developed into the clan they are today. Through the voices of several generations, we see how mores, character and ambitions have changed and evolved through the years. The weekend causes Big Angel to reflect on how he has lived his life. Some of this he does privately and some he shares with a select few. As family and friends speak at his birthday celebration, we see him from many different perspectives. Ultimately, we come to know and appreciate Big Angel as a complex, loving leader of a beautiful family.

Through this novel the author has brought us into the world of Mexican family life. The de la Cruzes are loud, passionate, bossy and loving. Above all, they know that family is everything.

Immigrant stories are particularly timely today. They remind us that no matter where we are from, we are all an important part of the mosaic that defines who we are as a nation.

Jill S. (Chicago, IL)

About our better angels: another winner by Urrea
Luis Alberto Urrea's latest book is about our better angels and how the guide us to purpose and meaning. "All we do, mija," the oldest brother, Big Angel, says, "is love. Love is the answer. Nothing stops it. Not borders. Not death."

Miguel Angel de la Cruz - aka Big Angel - is dying and he wants one last big birthday party. His entire huge and rambunctious family, including Little Angel - the son from his father's second life and a stand-on for Luis Alberto Urrea - are there for the merging of celebration and impending death.

Complicated family dynamics are at play as the borders that separate us - literally and figuratively - are explored and resentments and secrets are revealed. The unruliness of the family - particularly at first - can sometimes seem overwhelming as many characters - sons, daughters, tios and tias - are introduced quickly, and I do believe that Mr. Urrea intended to create that effect. Mr. Urrea is a superb writer and he has captured a family at the precipice of a major transition and how, at the end of the day, love prevails.

Poignancy and humor interject here - as they do in life -for a most satisfying reading experience. Definitely recommended.

Dottie B. (Louisville, KY)

The House of Broken Angels
Luis Alberto Urrea's The House of Broken Angels is a novel as large and large-hearted as the Mexican-American family it depicts. Ostensibly it is about two days in the life of the family's dying patriarch Big Angel--his mother's funeral and his last birthday party. But it also highlights the sadness and joy of each character in Big Angel's extended family. In this novel Urrea demonstrates the great hopes and losses of Chicanos who have moved north across the border. The novel should be read by anyone who wants to understand the ambiguity of the immigrant experience in general and the Mexican-American experience in particular.

Sherilyn R. (St George, UT)

Great Storytelling
Louis Alberto Urrea is a master storyteller. This book The House of Broken Angels, however had some technical problems. First let me tell you everything I loved. Big Angel, Little Angel, Perla, La Gloriosa, and even the minor characters were wonderful. The stories, the food, the humor, drew me into the lives of this incredibly complex family. But, the writing style was disjointed and made it difficult for me to follow the story and characters. I put the book down and up and down many times because I found myself getting frustrated. I wanted the story to flow. As it was I would still recommend the book but know it will take some work to get through.

...4 more reader reviews

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Author Information

Luis Alberto Urrea Author Biography

A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize for his landmark work of nonficiton The Devil's Highway, Luis Alberto Urrea is also the bestselling author of the novels The Hummingbird's Daughter, Into the Beautiful North, and Queen of America, as well as the story collections The Water Museum, a PEN/Faulkner Award finalist. He has won the Lannan Literary Award, an Edgar Award, and a 2017 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, among many other honors. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, he lives outside of Chicago and teaches at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Link to Luis Alberto Urrea's Website

Name Pronunciation
Luis Alberto Urrea: oo-Ray-ah

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