Summary and book reviews of The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea

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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  • Published:
    Mar 2018, 336 pages

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Book Summary

The definitive Mexican-American immigrant story, at once intimate and epic, from an acclaimed storyteller.

In his final days, beloved and ailing patriarch Miguel Angel De La Cruz, known affectionately as Big Angel, has summoned his entire clan for one last legendary birthday party. But as the party approaches, his mother, nearly one hundred, dies herself, leading to a farewell doubleheader.

Across one bittersweet weekend in their San Diego neighborhood, the revelers mingle among the palm trees and cacti, celebrating the lives of Big Angel and his mother, and recounting the many tales that have passed into family lore, the acts both ordinary and heroic that brought them to a fraught and sublime country and allowed them to flourish in the land they have come to call home.

The story of the De La Cruzes is the American story. This indelible portrait of a complex family reminds us of what it means to be the first generation and to live two lives across one border. Teeming with brilliance and humor, authentic at every turn, The House of Broken Angels is Luis Alberto Urrea at his best, and it cements his reputation as a storyteller of the first rank.

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 ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse Review

BookBrowse

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)   (Reviewed by BookBrowse First Impression Reviewers).

Full Review Members Only (671 words).

Media Reviews

Library Journal

Though fiction, Urrea's newest is an honest and moving portrayal of how families fall apart and come together during difficult times.

Booklist

Urrea once again captures the anxieties and joys of a family balanced on the borders between generations, El Norte and Mexico, and life and death. A quintessentially American story.

Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Urrea (The Hummingbird's Daughter) has written a vital, vibrant book about the immigrant experience that is a messy celebration of life's common joys and sorrows.

Kirkus Reviews

Starred Review. Even in death, Urrea shows, we never lose our connection to one another, which is the point of this deft and moving book.

Author Blurb Neil Gaiman, New York Times bestselling author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane
Luis Urrea is a mythmaker with the heart of a poet. He is that paradox, a gentle, kind writer who can hurt you deeply with honesty and beauty. I'm glad we have him.

Author Blurb Dave Eggers, National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of The Circle
This, the most personal book by the great American novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, is one of the most vivid and engrossing family epics of the last twenty years.

Author Blurb Julia Alvarez, author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
Luis Alberto Urrea is a master storyteller, and he delivers a masterwork with The House of the Broken Angels. Stories spin on stories. There are lives intimately depicted and fully realized; losses redeemed by love; a dazzling display of narrative fireworks, each little scene a gem; and larger-than-life characters across two borders who cross all borders and become ours. We enter this house of broken angels, and through the magical power of Urrea's writing, we become healed and whole. And we laugh and tear up and shake our heads in wonder all the way to the ending of a book we don't want to end. Urrea delivers on every page. ¬°Dios santo! What a storyteller! Bless his capacious heart!

Reader Reviews

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 ...   Read More

Patricia

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 - ...   Read More

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 ...   Read More

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...   Read More

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Beyond the Book

How to Get a Green Card

Sample Green Card Like millions of others, several of the characters in Luis Alberto Urrea's The House of Broken Angels emigrated from Mexico to the United States, some illegally, some following U.S. protocol to obtain permanent residency. Immigration has become a particularly contentious topic over the last few of years but most of us have little understanding of the process of becoming a legal immigrant, so this a good time to take a look at whistle-stop tour through this extremely complex topic.

Over time a once simple immigration process has become lengthy and complex. The United States' borders were open to all during the country's first century of existence. This began to change with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, which prohibited ...

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