Customer Review

71 of 76 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The "Gating" of the American heart, mind and soul examined., February 28, 2002
This review is from: The Tortilla Curtain (Paperback)
As is the norm for Boyle, this is a very complex work.
The gist of this novel emerges right from the start. Delaney Mossbacher is driving home to his pristine gated community in Southern California and hits a Mexican immigrant walking along the road. His reaction? Concern that he might have seriously damaged his car. Oh, he does "come to his senses" and check on the man he hit. The man is obviously injured. What does Delaney do? Gives him 20 bucks and leaves.
Ok, so Delaney is just a lousy jerk-a bad guy with no conscience, right? Not exactly, at least from Delaney's point of view. A left wing "naturalist" type, Delaney is the perfect parody of the "Socially and Environmentally" conscious Yuppie urban American. He's the sort with "important" cares. That he has hit and injured a human being gives him but passing concern-that his dog can be killed by wild animals in his own yard is an outrage.
This world view is counter posed against that of the accident victim, Candido and his young wife, illegal immigrants living in the ravine behind the Delaney's gated community. Candido and his wife struggle with how to find even one decent meal a day. Kyra, Delaney's wife, struggles with the escalating emptiness and lack of fulfillment she feels from closing 6 figure commission deals on her sales of multimillion dollar homes. And so it goes.
At heart, this is a book about how people are desperate to connect with one another while systematically shutting themselves away from everyone. The Delaney's spend their lives shutting themselves away behind an array of both actual and metaphorical walls. Candido and his wife are shut away by poverty and fear and racism.
Boyle is a craftsman with words, and he definitely knows how to construct a well-designed story. I appreciate his work but I can't really say I like it. On the one hand, his characters too often strike me as too much a caricature-complex and well developed caricatures, to be sure, but not characters one can empathize with. In this case, neither of the Delaney's amount to what I would call a genuine character, they are both come across caricatures developed to represent a wide swath of American stereotypes rather than as real people. This is sad, as their counter points-Candido and his wife, are just the opposite. They may "represent" an immigrant stereotype, yet are developed a real characters. On the other hand, there seems to me to be something oppressive about Boyle's style-I always feel like I have an anvil on my shoulders when I read his books. I suppose some would interpret it as a sense of "suspense", but it feels different to me, more like you are carrying the weight of all the points he wants to make all throughout the reading experience.
Interestingly, I still come back to Boyle. His books weigh on me, but I can't seem to walk away from him. I may not like them, but I do appreciate them, and they seem to have a power to attract. It's all very odd, yet compelling.
I say give him a try and see what your reaction is.
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Comments

Tracked by 2 customers

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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Feb 22, 2011 10:28:25 AM PST
Reader says:
This is one of the best reader review I've ever read.

Posted on Mar 20, 2011 4:32:13 PM PDT
Shirrl Girrl says:
I totally agree with this reviewer. That is exactly how I felt. In the end, I didn't care about either of the idiots.

In reply to an earlier post on Apr 22, 2012 5:35:48 PM PDT
Well done review! I agree that I don't particularly like T. C. Boyle's stories, and can't imagine why people would find them "hilarious" (that thought actually makes me feel sick), I still keep coming back for more, bacause they're so well written and compelling (in a disturbing way).
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