Excerpt from The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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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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  • First Published:
    Mar 2018, 336 pages
    Mar 2019, 368 pages


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>He shook his head, hard. Rubbed his face. Had he been napping? Chingado!

"Move," he said. "All of you!"

"Yes, Daddy."


*  *  *

Out in his room in the garage, Lance Corporal Hungry Man got his beret neatly positioned on his head. He had moved back in with them when Pops got so sick.

Favorite son, he told himself. He glanced at the plastic trophy Pops had given him. It said: LALO #1 SON! He looked at it all the time. He cocked the beret a little, down over his eye. Bruce Lee glowered from a poster behind him. And a bumper sticker from one of his attempts at a recovery program was above his bed: ONE DAY AT A TIME.

His former sponsor had made him a little placard with this motto wood-burned into it: SHORT FORM OF THE SERENITY PRAYER—FUCK IT.

He had done stuff. Bad stuff. He was working on it. Pops was always saying this was not West Side Story. Whatever that was. He got it—wasn't about no gangbangers. It wasn't about fights and creepy shit. Lalo knew this much: he was doing his best.

His high-and-tight haircut made him look like he was still in the service. It had been a good while. He tugged down the hem of his tunic. Squared away. Head of De La Cruz Security.

Days like today called for a uniform. Moms made sure it was always pressed and sharp. He maintained his dress tunic and trousers, his dress blouse and hats—all clean, crisp. Black shoes shined like dark mirrors. His little rows of fruit salad ribbons and medals neat, a gap where he had removed his Purple Heart and pinned it on his father. He still limped a little, but the leg wasn't too bad. He had some magic pills. He didn't think about it, if he could help it. Got a Chinese dragon tattooed all along the scar. Tail wrapped around his ankle, which still crunched like cereal when he walked. Didn't talk about it. Ain't no thing. Every homie had his secrets. Too bad those old-timers didn't have no secrets. Or maybe they did. He had kids himself—Gio and Mayra. He wasn't planning to tell them shit.

Lalo knew he had tragic eyes. Dark, like his father's. He looked like someone who had lost a lover. Or one who had tried to stop what sick sadness he was doing and could not, and was exhausted by acting like life was a sunny Fourth of July picnic.

His great-grandpa had been a soldier. And Gramps Antonio had been some kind of a badass cop. Grandma América—she had been a trip. She had managed to be sweet as she kicked everybody's ass. She had been badder than Abuelo Antonio. Sorry to be burying her today, for reals. He wasn't about to even begin considering burying Pops.

Pops. Hungry Man didn't know what his dad had done in the real world aside from raising the fam with Moms. Life, man—did Pops have a life? That was its own little war, being a dad. Lalo knew that. He laughed once, making a skitch sound with the side of his mouth. It was war for sure with him and his brothers and sister. And Moms.

Freakin' Moms, laying down the law and order with her slipper. La chancla. Every vato feared the chancla. A million bug-eyed, pissed-off Mexican mamas whacking the bejesus out of their kids, holding one arm and flailing ass with the free hand, the whole time dancing in a circle as the homie tried to run away but couldn't get out of her grip. And Moms getting all formal as she lectured, every word coming down with the whacks on the ass: Usted-va-a-aprender-quién-es-la-jefa-aquí! It was all "thee" and "thou" when the Old Ladies started smacking you. And once the poor criminal escaped, Moms launched that chancla like a guided missile and beaned him in the back of the head.

"Worse than a drill instructor," he told his reflection.

Excerpted from The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea. Copyright © 2018 by Luis Alberto Urrea. Excerpted by permission of Little Brown & Company. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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