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The Barbarian Nurseries: A Novel Hardcover – Bargain Price, September 27, 2011
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“The Barbarian Nurseries is a book of extraordinary scope and extraordinary power. Héctor Tobar's second novel sweeps its central character from almost-serfdom and sends her on an odyssey through the teeming mysteries of Los Angeles and the wild jungles of the California judicial system . . . Tobar, a Los Angeles Times columnist, moves nimbly in and out of the minds of a host of characters, viewing even those who seem on the surface the least sympathetic with an awed authorial tenderness. The chief surprise of The Barbarian Nurseries is that, despite the social and ethnic schisms it so acutely explores, it turns out to be such a warm novel.” —Los Angeles Times
“The Barbarian Nurseries is a dark, poignant and hilarious tale of a family maid in Southern California who tries to hold things together as a marriage falls apart . . . That Tobar is so evenhanded, so compassionate, so downright smart, should place his new novel on everyone's must-read list.” —The Seattle Times
“In his ambitious second novel, The Barbarian Nurseries, Héctor Tobar plants issues both timely and timeless—race, class, mixed marriage, immigration, servitude, parenting—and raises them up from the fertile narrative soil of Southern California . . . [His] writing continually creates moments of uncommon magic.” —ELLE
“The Barbarian Nurseries, in stylistic homage to Charles Dickens, Tom Wolfe and T. C. Boyle, paints a rich Panavision place and time as sprawling and paradoxical as its subject . . . Tobar has crafted an illuminating parable for this historical moment, and an entertaining one, and provided a social mirror within which are faces we need to understand, and face.” —The Buffalo News
"Héctor Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries is that rare novel that redefines a city. It has the necessary vital sweep of culture and class that brings a city to life, but its power lies in Tobar's ability to persuasively change the perspective from which the Los Angeles of the present—and, by extension, the United States—is seen. This book confirms the promise of Tobar's debut novel, The Tattooed Soldier.” —Stuart Dybek, author of I Sailed with Magellan and The Coast of Chicago
"The Barbarian Nurseries is a huge novel of this century, as sprawling and exciting as Los Angeles itself, one that tracks a Mexican immigrant maid not only as static decor in 'real' America's economic rise and fall. Like yard workers and cooks, construction laborers and seamstresses, Tobar's Araceli has flesh, brains, dreams, ambition, history, culture, voice: a rich, generous life. A story that was demanded, we can celebrate that it is now here." —Dagoberto Gilb, author of Before the End, After the Beginning and The Flowers
"Héctor Tobar's novel is astonishing, like a many-layered mural on a long wall in Los Angeles, a tapestry of people and neighborhoods and stories. A vivid testament to Southern California as the world. Araceli is so unexpected and unique; she's a character America needs to see, and this novel takes her on a journey America needs to understand." —Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon
"Tobar delivers a riveting, insightful morality tale of conspicuously consuming Americans and their Mexican servants in the O.C. . . . Tobar is both inventive and relentless in pricking the pretentious social consciences of his entitled Americans, though he also casts a sober look on the foibles of the Mexicans who serve them. His sharp eye for Southern California culture, spiraling plot twists, ecological awareness, and ample willingness to dole out come-uppance to the nauseatingly privileged may put readers in mind of T. C. Boyle." —Publishers Weekly
Top Customer Reviews
The principle characters of means are Scott Torres and his wife, Maureen Thompson. The Torres-Thompsons and their three children live in a posh house tended by a staff they can no longer afford. As the novel opens, the gardener and nanny have been recently sacked, leaving only Araceli, the maid whose duties suddenly expand to include childcare without a commensurate increase in pay. Following a mild incident of domestic violence, Scott and Maureen make independent decisions to take a "break" from domestic life. Maureen goes to a spa with their daughter, Scott doesn't come home from work, and neither of them bothers to tell the other -- or, more importantly, Araceli, who finds herself taking care of the two boys without guidance from their parents.
Araceli, fearful that the kids will be placed in foster care if she calls the police, begins a journey through the sprawling city and its suburbs in search of their paternal grandfather. Héctor Tobar uses Araceli's quest to illustrate the city's cultural evolution: the ever-changing character of its neighborhoods as members of various ethnic groups settle in and later move on, replaced by new arrivals with a different group identity.Read more ›
Scott Torres is a programmer, a Mexican American with the emphasis on the American, who has fulfilled the American dream: he lives with his lovely blond wife Maureen Thompson, his two sensitive and precocious young sons Brandon and Keenan and his baby daughter Samantha in wealthy gated L.A. community he can ill-afford. The Spanish-style house - Paseo Linda Bonita, a redundancy - is an immediate clue that this is not a community that is primed to understand those who toil in its households.
After falling on hard times, he dismisses all the servants with one exception: Araceli, his illegal Mexican maid. One night, Scott and Maureen get into a particularly vicious fight about Maureen's plan to replace the "petite forest" tropical garden with a very pricey desert landscape. Each separately decides to take a little break from home, leaving the two boys with Araceli. Unwilling and ill-equipped to handle her two charges, Araceli takes off on an ill-advised adventure to downtown Los Angeles, where she hopes to deposit the boys with their grandfather. When the parents return home four days later (each thinking the other is already there) they reach the absurd conclusion that Araceli has absconded with their sons and the result is the predictable media circus.
Hector Tobar is at heart, a journalist, and his writing reflects his careful journalist's eye for detail. That is both the good news and the bad news.Read more ›
From the early pages of "The Barbarian Nurseries", Tobar introduces a trio of different and somewhat confusing characters: Araceli the maid (who based on the book blurb would appear to be the primary character in this broad-scoped novel), Maureen the mother, and Scott the father. These three present themselves to the reader within the first chapter and perhaps it was this that had me frustrated. At the start, Tobar doesn't mind giving us somewhat stereotypical and bland figurines. The beauty of "The Barbarian Nurseries" kicks in once the characters begin to grow beyond their original sketch, once their thoughts and motives become clear. Gradually - and it does take some time - the reader is led to sympathize entirely with the mistakes each of our characters makes and learns to understand what makes these three tick. But they are not alone in making "The Barbarian Nurseries" a good book - far from it.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
So tight, breezy and very topical for anyone living in California, or any state with a large Hispanic population. About as flawless as a book can get.Published 1 day ago by Tomenator
I actually really enjoyed this book. Explores variety of issues.Published 11 days ago by Elizabeth Paniagua
Having lived for 25 years in Southern California this book so accurately portrays all facts of life there - it's visually stimulating.Published 1 month ago by josefine perry
I like the author's perspective. I always liked his writing in the L.A. Times, and I continue to admire him as a novelist.Published 1 month ago by Phyllis Chiri
I've already recommended this book to 2 friends and can't wait to hear the lecture by the author who came to speak in our town.Published 3 months ago by Amy G.
I ordered this book as it was chosen by the San Luis Obispo, CA Library system and a local junior college as the book of the year. Read morePublished 4 months ago by K. Farrell
Incredibly well constructed novel that keeps you glued to the unexpected adventures of the protagonist. Read morePublished 5 months ago by Christopher Birt
First, this review is for the Audible.com version. It is that rare convergence of talents from both writer and narrator that provides an experience that is greater than the sum of... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Chip Auger