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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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There are currently 21 reader reviews for The House of Broken Angels
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Christine P. (Gig Harbor, WA)

Big Love
This is a book that honors family. Family is who we love the most but we also have the ability to hurt the most, where passions roar and sorrows are deep. This is shown often throughout the story of the De La Cruz family. My favorite part is the love story between Perla and Big Angel, a lifetime together, of shared love. Big Angel is at the end of a battle with cancer. Most of the novel, he is reflecting on his life and saying goodbye to those he loves. We also see Big Angel through the eyes of those that have a complicated relationship with him. This is also an immigrant's tale but what I think is a central theme throughout is love. Here is my favorite quote; it is Big Angel talking to his daughter, Minnie, "All we do, mija, he said, is love. Love is the answer. Nothing stops it. Not borders. Not death." (p.235), it's an important message to remember.

The House of Broken Angels
This is an extraordinary book. It tells the story of an immigrant family from Mexico, who mean everything to each other. They may not like each other, even fear them, but the sense of Family is still there.
We are given three levels of Angels - the grandfather, who was the first to come to U.S.,, then the existing head of the family, who is sick and dying, and the third who is more gringo that they would like.
The dying head of the family wants to see his family together one more time and celebrates his birthday the day after his mother's funeral, which makes it easier for everyone to be able to attend. We get to meet all the characters of the family and characters they are.
I would recommend this book to book clubs because it is so rich with subjects. A strong reminder that Family is a bond that is both bad and good.
Lora O. (Antioch, CA)

Two Funerals and Life In Between
House of Broken Angels starts with a death and ends with a death. Between is the preparation for death of the family patriarch, who has incurable cancer, confined to a wheelchair, who needs his diapers changed by his wife and daughter. It is populated by members of an extremely dysfunctional mixed family, who travel back and forth over the border between the U.S. and Mexico, marrying, divorcing, abandoning children, fighting, getting even and creating a world of hurt for each other. There is a brother who has escaped to Seattle to get away from his extended step family. This story includes hunger, extreme poverty, infidelity, alcoholism, drug abuse, gang violence, child abuse, immigration fears and every other calamity imaginable.

And yet, this book that could be so grim is one of the most joyful, messy, lively, chaotic, energetic, silly, humorous, philosophical books I have ever read, where dogs are "scuttling around like animated empanadas on meth".

There is such beauty in the language and in the musings of a man who is dying, who is sad that he will never see geraniums, touch his face again or make love to his wife. (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). The extended family members fight, accuse, insult, reveal secrets but finally there is forgiveness and understanding. Finally, there is so much love. As Big Angel says "All we do, Mija"….."is love. Love is the answer. Nothing stops it. Not borders. Not death."

I wept at the end at the wonderful, sad bittersweetness. How can you not love a book with mariachis and a character named La Gloriosa!
Joan R. (Chicago, IL)

A Big-Hearted Story of the Ties that Bind a Family
I found this novel stunning and hard to put down. Urrea places the reader in the middle of a large extended immigrant family from Mexico as they deal with life-changing events. Each character is broken through what life has dealt them, but each finds a chance to heal within the embrace of their family. I laughed at their craziness and cringed at the hurt they inflicted on each other. This is an especially relevant novel to read at this time. It shows us how alike we all are as we negotiate our own family issues. A wonderful novel!
Gary R. (Bolingbrook, IL)

The power of family
Growing up, when I was in high school I had good friends of Hispanic descent, and this book brought back memories of the strength of their family. This is a great read about Big Angel's clan, the trials and travails they faced head on, and lives lead and lost. By the way, I never left Huante's house hungry, I can still smell the tamales cooking on the stove. Buy it, read it, pass it on!
Nona F. (Evanston, IL)

Exuberant family saga and immigration story
House of Fallen Angels is an exuberant family saga full of comedy and sentimentality as well as tragedy and violence. It's a novel of contrasts: heaping platters of American fast food and hungry children, mariachi bands and transvestite nightclub singers, a college professor and a drug dealer. Family members' foibles and eccentricities are lovingly delineated as individuals clash and cooperate, argue and embrace. Through the stories, memories, secrets and confessions of the terminally ill patriarch Big Angel 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 between the generations. It examines the outsider experience on a national and a family level. 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."
I wish I knew more Spanish. Though many individual words could be deciphered through context, I believe I would have gotten even more from this rich novel if I understood the longer phrases and the birthday song which are not translated.
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."


"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.'"
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