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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
    Paperback:
    Mar 2019, 368 pages

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Outside, all the shorties and peewees were laying siege to the yard and the house. Squabbling and screaming and passing a half-flat soccer ball from foot to foot as they ran. The girlies were as loud as the fat boys. It was a freakin' chicken coop out there, but Pops liked all his grandkids and grandnieces and neighbor kids and waifs eating all the food and breaking stuff. Above their incessant caterwaul, he heard his dad shouting: "Lalo!"

"Coming, Pops!" he called.

"Hurry, mijo!"

"On my way!"

It seemed to Lalo that some days everyone shouted at everybody else, like they were all deaf or didn't understand English. Well, Moms—that was arguable. But she probably understood more than she let on.

"Lalo!"

"Coming!" Hungry Man snapped a salute in Big Angel's general direction. He looked in the mirror again, tugged the hem of his jacket down one last time, trying to hide that civilian gut. He had a little silver .22 automatic strapped to his ankle like some narco. You do what you got to do, no lie. "Good to go," he said to himself and stepped out to find his sister smoking in the backyard. "Minnie," he said. "Check it." He posed. "I got my hair did."

"You look sharp," she said. "Bubble butt."

"You're too funny, Orange Is the New Black. Look who's talking."

"Hey," she said, tossing her smoke into the geraniums, "I never got arrested or nothing."

"Yeah? You're the only one."

She lit up a fresh one, smoked, studied the end of her cigarette, elegantly tipped off some ash with her ring finger, looked sideways at him. "You know what? Most people don't get arrested."

"What planet you from?"

She blew smoke at him.

"You smoke too much," he said.

"Said the junkie."

"Say what?" he said. "Keep flapping your big ol' duck lips, girl. See what happens."

She sneered.

"I hate it when you look at me like that, Mouse," he said.

"Really."

"I'm okay, okay?"

"Right." She blew smoke rings.

"Look," he said. "I'm clean. No lie."

"You sure about that?"

"I don't got a problem. Just takin' the edge off. I got reasons." He tapped his thigh, but sympathy moves no longer worked on his sister.

She held the cigarette away from herself and nodded. "Yeah, who doesn't?" Then, "And you stole my car last week."

"At least I ain't Braulio," he said.

"We don't talk about Braulio."

"I know, I know." But Lalo also knew, if he wanted a conversation to change, all he had to do was mention his dead brother.

They stood there, out of insults and accusations. Out of anything else to say. They looked at their feet.

"We have to get going," Lalo said.

"Pops," she replied.

"Yeah. Good ol' Pops. Got needs."

"It's what we do."

"Fuck it."

They went inside the house.

*  *  *

"I was never sick. I was never late. I banked my vacation time."

"How nice, Flaco," his wife said, patting his shoulder.

"And for what."

"I don't know."

"I wasn't asking, Flaca. I was saying."

"Right."

"Maybe asking myself."

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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