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BookBrowse Reviews The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

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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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    Readers' Opinion:

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

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A reflection on what it means to be American, what it means to be Mexican, and how the American experience changes from generation to generation.

Twenty BookBrowse members reviewed Luis Alberto Urrea's The House of Broken Angels for our First Impressions program and found lots to love, rating it an average of 4.5 stars.

What it's about:

The House of Broken Angels is about our better angels and how they guide us to purpose and meaning. Miguel Angel de la Cruz - aka Big Angel - is dying and he wants one last big birthday party. His entire huge and rambunctious family are there for both the celebration and the 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 (Jill S). Through the stories, memories, secrets and confessions of the terminally ill patriarch and the members of his extended family, Urrea reflects on what it means to be American, what it means to be Mexican, and shows how the American experience can be so varied from generation to generation (Nona F).

Many saw the novel as timely:

The book comes at a very opportune moment considering the immigration issues that are all over the media. As you read about this family, you come to realize that people are the same all over the world – with some cultural differences - but still share the same desire to create and support a family in the best way they can (Brenda D). It reminds 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 (Mary H). It also demonstrates how alike we all are as we negotiate our own family issues (Joan R).

Several readers commented on Urrea's writing:

Louis Alberto Urrea is a master storyteller. Big Angel, Little Angel, Perla, La Gloriosa, and even the minor characters are wonderful. The stories, the food and the humor drew me into the lives of this incredibly complex family (Sherilyn R). There is such beauty in the language and in the musings of the man who is dying, who is sad that he will never see geraniums, touch his face again or make love to his wife (Lora O). This is a novel that I didn't read quickly, mostly because I felt the author's artistry should not be rushed over. His words created not only a visual image but transported me to places with a multitude of scents and sounds (Mary Anne R).

A number of First Impression reviewers quoted from the book:

  • One sentence that really struck me (as a woman of a certain age): "Well, the hills are old, but they still have flowers on them." (Brenda D)
  • As Little Angel, the half-American half-brother and college professor reflects: "If only the dominant culture could see those small moments, they would see their own human lives reflected in the other." (Nona F)
  • Big Angel says, "All we do, mija, is love. Love is the answer. Nothing stops it. Not borders. Not death." (Jill S)

Some found it an emotional read:
I laughed at their craziness and winced at the hurt they inflicted on each other (Joan R). This is a story that at times made me cringe, at other times laugh or cry (Mary Anne R). I wept at the end at the wonderful, sad bitter-sweetness of the story (Lora O).

Many also commented about the Spanish-language content:

I only wish I had a better understanding of the Spanish language as he does use it quite a bit (Brenda D). I would recommend that non-Spanish speaking readers have a Spanish to English dictionary handy; there were many words and phrases I needed to look up (Lora O).

Recommended:
The House of Broken Angels should be read by anyone who wants to understand the ambiguity of the immigrant experience in general and the Mexican-American experience in particular (Dottie B). I highly recommend this to book clubs; it lends itself to countless discussions of history, immigration, current political happenings, love of family and complications of the human experience (Judy W).

This review was originally published in The BookBrowse Review in April 2018, and has been updated for the March 2019 edition. Click here to go to this issue.

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