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 1, 2019, 368 pages

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Excerpt
The House of Broken Angels

Must I go alone
like flowers that die?
Will nothing remain
of my name?
Nothing of my fame
here on earth?
At least my flowers,
at least my songs…
—Ayocuan Cuetzpaltzin

This is my confession of love.
—Rick Elias

Delirious Funerals

Big Angel was late to his own mother's funeral.

He tossed in his bed, the sheets catching his feet in a tangle. Sweat tickled his sides as he realized what was happening. The sun was up—it was bright through his eyelids. The burning pink world. Everybody else would be there before him. No. Not this. Not today. He struggled to rise.

Mexicans don't make these kinds of mistakes, he told himself.

Every morning since his diagnosis, he had the same thoughts. They were his alarm clock. How could a man out of time repair all that was broken? And on this morning, as he was awakening to these worries, cursed by the light, cursed in every way by time, betrayed by his exhausted body while his mind raged, he was startled to find his father's ghost sitting beside him on the bed.

The old man was smoking one of his Pall Malls. "That's a lot of weight to carry around," his father said. "Time to wake up and let it go."

He was speaking English. His accent had gotten smoother, though he still pronounced "weight" as gweitt.

"Es mierda."

The old man became smoke and rose in curls to vanish against the ceiling. "Watch your language," Big Angel said.

He blinked his eyes. He was the family's human clock. If he was still asleep, they were all still asleep. They could sleep till noon. His son could sleep till three. Big Angel was too weak to leap up and start shouting. He poked his wife in the back until she started, looked over her shoulder at him, and sat up.

"We're late, Flaca," he said.

"No!" she cried. "Ay Dios."

"Sí," he said, deeply satisfied somehow to be the one to lay down a rebuke.

She sprang from the bed and raised the alarm. Their daughter, Minnie, was asleep on the living room couch, visiting for the night so she'd be on time. His wife shouted, and his daughter crashed into the coffee table. "Ma," she complained. "Ma!"

He put his fists to his eyes.

The women came into the room without a word and levitated him out of bed, then helped him to the bathroom to brush his teeth. His wife took a comb to his bristly, stand-up hair. He had to sit to pee. They looked away. They wrestled him into slacks and a white shirt and planted him on the edge of the bed.

I am going to miss Mamá's funeral, he told the universe. "I never cry," he announced, his eyes bright with hard light.

They ignored him.

"Daddy's always watching everything," his daughter said.

"Es tremendo," her mother replied.

No measure of psychic strain could budge the world or his body into faster motion. His family? Why should today be any different? Chaos. In his house, they were suddenly all awake and moving around like crashing doves in a cage. Raucous flutter and no progress. Time, time, time. Like bars across the door.

He was never late. Until now. He, who endlessly combated his family's reliance on "Mexican time." They drove him crazy. If a dinner gathering was announced for six o'clock, he could be sure it wouldn't start until nine. They'd walk in as if they were early. Or worse, they'd say "What?" as if he were the one with a problem. You know you're Mexican when lunch doesn't show up till ten at night.

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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