Customer Reviews for

The Tortilla Curtain

Average Rating 4
( 77 )
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5 Star

(31)

4 Star

(22)

3 Star

(10)

2 Star

(11)

1 Star

(3)

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Most Helpful Favorable Review

2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

Relevant social commentary

I read this as part of my Banned Books Challenge.

First, I cannot really see why it would be banned. There IS a rape that occurs, but it is not graphic and really plays into the larger issue of the novel. Maybe people don't like seeing themselves in Delaney and Kyra...
I read this as part of my Banned Books Challenge.

First, I cannot really see why it would be banned. There IS a rape that occurs, but it is not graphic and really plays into the larger issue of the novel. Maybe people don't like seeing themselves in Delaney and Kyra; that's all I can think of.

In a stunning social commentary that's as relevant today as it was when first published in 1995, T. C. Boyle takes us into the hardscrabble world of Candido and America, two illegal Mexican immigrants living off the land and their quest to simply find a place in this country. They face unimaginable hardships and the basest of poverty, while Candido struggles to make a way for his family and feels that he is coming up woefully short.

Kyra and Delaney live a relatively tranquil life, cocooned from harsh realities until the day that Delaney hits a pedestrian on the road leading home, gives him a tiny amount of money, then leaves.

No matter what side of the immigration debate you are on, this is a must-read, as it offers the reader more than a glimpse into the motivation that causes many to make that treacherous trip across the border, the ways and means that illegal workers are taken advantage of, and the various ways people allow their views to be influenced by others.

Although there are some places where the writing seems to skim the surface, the stunning and heart-rending ending is enough on it's own to make it recommended reading.

Don't read this book if you are uncomfortable with maybe uncovering your own hidden prejudices; or if you think that all illegal immigrants and poor people deserve the hard lives they lead.

Sensitive Reader: There is some profanity, and a non-graphic description of a rape. None of it is gratuitous or excessive.

QUOTES:

A feeling like joy took hold of her, but it wasn't joy exactly or joy without limit -- she wouldn't feel that until she had a roof over her head. But if Candido had work they'd have enough money to eat for a week, two weeks maybe, and if they could both find a job -- even every second day -- they could start saving for an apartment.

"Why should we be providing jobs for these people when we're looking at a ten percent unemployment rate right here in California -- and that's for citizens. Furthermore, I'm willing to bet you'll see a big reduction in the crime rate once the thing's closed down. And if that isn't enough of a reason, I'm sorry, but quite frankly I resent having to wade through them all every time I go to the post office. No offense, but it's beginning to look like f___king Guadalajara or something down there."

Yes, he told her, yes, that's the way, and he was happy, as happy as he'd ever been, right up to the moment when the wind plucked the fire out of its bed of coals and with a roar as loud as all of the furnaces of hell set it dancing in the treetops.

Book Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

posted by jewelknits on October 28, 2010

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Most Helpful Critical Review

7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

Good Writing - Poor Attempt to Convey the Immigrant Experience

I guess I'll start with what I thought Mr. Boyle did well. He is definitely a gifted writer and the novel showcases his ability to bring feelings and settings to life. I was impressed by his mastery of the written word, especially his wit and cleverness to convey feel...
I guess I'll start with what I thought Mr. Boyle did well. He is definitely a gifted writer and the novel showcases his ability to bring feelings and settings to life. I was impressed by his mastery of the written word, especially his wit and cleverness to convey feelings and make situations tangible. I feel he did a great job of capturing the spirit of liberal-yuppie-suburbanite demographic, exposing its contradictions and hypocrasies as well as its well meaning soul. However, for all of its technical highlights, I feel that the novel falls short of being truly convincing or authentic to the 'Mexican' themes. To be completely honest, I was very excited when I bought the novel at the prospect of reading an Anglo take on both sides of the Latino-Anglo race relations theme. But as I read more and more of the novel, I was convinced more and more that Mr. Boyle's grasp of immigrant experience was shallow at best. It takes much more than the sporadic use of spanish words or knowledge of obscure traditions/beliefs/practices to truly build an understanding of a people. It is this shortcoming that ulitimately prevents the novel from truly telling the story from both sides. My concern regarding this novel is that people unfamiliar with immigrant issues of cultures will use the novel to--if even in some small way--form beliefs about immigrants or Mexicans. I feel that stereotypes on both sides were propogated, with immigrants and Mexicans receiving the shorter end of the stick. For all of Mr. Boyle's literary talent, I feel the novel was a disappointment. Let the record show that I am the son of immigrant parents--their only child to be born an American citizen. Through their dedicated work and unwavering commitment, they afforded me the opportunity succeed and attain a University education. I have gone on to serve immigrant populations through the non-profit sector. In a sense, I guess I feel that I am a part of both worlds presented in the novel.

posted by Anonymous on August 29, 2005

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 29, 2005

    Good Writing - Poor Attempt to Convey the Immigrant Experience

    I guess I'll start with what I thought Mr. Boyle did well. He is definitely a gifted writer and the novel showcases his ability to bring feelings and settings to life. I was impressed by his mastery of the written word, especially his wit and cleverness to convey feelings and make situations tangible. I feel he did a great job of capturing the spirit of liberal-yuppie-suburbanite demographic, exposing its contradictions and hypocrasies as well as its well meaning soul. However, for all of its technical highlights, I feel that the novel falls short of being truly convincing or authentic to the 'Mexican' themes. To be completely honest, I was very excited when I bought the novel at the prospect of reading an Anglo take on both sides of the Latino-Anglo race relations theme. But as I read more and more of the novel, I was convinced more and more that Mr. Boyle's grasp of immigrant experience was shallow at best. It takes much more than the sporadic use of spanish words or knowledge of obscure traditions/beliefs/practices to truly build an understanding of a people. It is this shortcoming that ulitimately prevents the novel from truly telling the story from both sides. My concern regarding this novel is that people unfamiliar with immigrant issues of cultures will use the novel to--if even in some small way--form beliefs about immigrants or Mexicans. I feel that stereotypes on both sides were propogated, with immigrants and Mexicans receiving the shorter end of the stick. For all of Mr. Boyle's literary talent, I feel the novel was a disappointment. Let the record show that I am the son of immigrant parents--their only child to be born an American citizen. Through their dedicated work and unwavering commitment, they afforded me the opportunity succeed and attain a University education. I have gone on to serve immigrant populations through the non-profit sector. In a sense, I guess I feel that I am a part of both worlds presented in the novel.

    7 out of 9 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 28, 2010

    Relevant social commentary

    I read this as part of my Banned Books Challenge.

    First, I cannot really see why it would be banned. There IS a rape that occurs, but it is not graphic and really plays into the larger issue of the novel. Maybe people don't like seeing themselves in Delaney and Kyra; that's all I can think of.

    In a stunning social commentary that's as relevant today as it was when first published in 1995, T. C. Boyle takes us into the hardscrabble world of Candido and America, two illegal Mexican immigrants living off the land and their quest to simply find a place in this country. They face unimaginable hardships and the basest of poverty, while Candido struggles to make a way for his family and feels that he is coming up woefully short.

    Kyra and Delaney live a relatively tranquil life, cocooned from harsh realities until the day that Delaney hits a pedestrian on the road leading home, gives him a tiny amount of money, then leaves.

    No matter what side of the immigration debate you are on, this is a must-read, as it offers the reader more than a glimpse into the motivation that causes many to make that treacherous trip across the border, the ways and means that illegal workers are taken advantage of, and the various ways people allow their views to be influenced by others.

    Although there are some places where the writing seems to skim the surface, the stunning and heart-rending ending is enough on it's own to make it recommended reading.

    Don't read this book if you are uncomfortable with maybe uncovering your own hidden prejudices; or if you think that all illegal immigrants and poor people deserve the hard lives they lead.

    Sensitive Reader: There is some profanity, and a non-graphic description of a rape. None of it is gratuitous or excessive.

    QUOTES:

    A feeling like joy took hold of her, but it wasn't joy exactly or joy without limit -- she wouldn't feel that until she had a roof over her head. But if Candido had work they'd have enough money to eat for a week, two weeks maybe, and if they could both find a job -- even every second day -- they could start saving for an apartment.

    "Why should we be providing jobs for these people when we're looking at a ten percent unemployment rate right here in California -- and that's for citizens. Furthermore, I'm willing to bet you'll see a big reduction in the crime rate once the thing's closed down. And if that isn't enough of a reason, I'm sorry, but quite frankly I resent having to wade through them all every time I go to the post office. No offense, but it's beginning to look like f___king Guadalajara or something down there."

    Yes, he told her, yes, that's the way, and he was happy, as happy as he'd ever been, right up to the moment when the wind plucked the fire out of its bed of coals and with a roar as loud as all of the furnaces of hell set it dancing in the treetops.

    Book Rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 20, 2009

    Reader Beware

    Am I the only one who found this book utterly disturbing? I was required to read this book this summer for my AP Language class in High School. I was reading the book until I came to a graphic sex scene. Is this what you want to fill young 16 and 17 year old high school students minds with? I know in the world today most high schoolers read trashy novels and watch trashy movies and television. But I may be one of the few does not. And the public school system has never forced any of these teenagers to watch or read any of this. I'm not quite sure how the parents would react if they knew the content of their children's summer reading assignments. I am fine with anyone else reading and liking this book, I can see it was well written and moving in parts, but I do not agree with some of the content, especially for high school students English classes.

    2 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2006

    A Modern Day Grapes of Wrath?

    I really think that is novel is especially relevant and poignant when compared to what's going on today with immigration controversy and racial prejudices in the Southwest. T.C. Boyle creates two vivid storylines, (which did not intertwine as much as I expected them to) one of an affluent, professed-to-be liberal, and outwardly humanitarian Los Angeles couple, and one of a destitute, self-doubting, and near starving couple recently emigrated from Mexico. This book does a fantastic job at opening the eyes of its readers to the true misjudgments, mischaracterizations, and blatant disregard of Mexican immigrants, and what expectations of theirs are never met in the 'promise land.' However, Boyle equally conveys a defensive, conservative outlook which seeks to protect American values, purity, and nominal safety. But the most riveting factor of the novel is the progression of the Mossenbachs from liberal outspokenness to conservative reticence. It seems that their humanist values were easy to maintain when secluded and removed, but when poor labor and some crime begin to infringe upon their lifestyle, these views are slowly overtaken. Similarly with America and Condido, we see two people once guided by a tremendous amount of faith and optimism, yet who, after continual denial and refutation, begin to lose hope. This book challenged my own views on immigration and what our outlooks should be, for the good and for the bad. My only qualm with novel as a narrative was the lack of a continuous, increasing plot. For those seeking to tie it to Steinbeck's 'Grapes of Wrath,' they might as well just read that, because Boyle's characterizations, while good, are not Steinbeck's. A worthwhile read especially for Californians.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2004

    Twisted and Suspensful

    ¿Tortilla Curtain,¿ by T.C. Boyle, is a book with not one story in it but two. Throughout the book the reader follows the life of an average every day man living in America. We see his ups his downs and some unfortunate and fortunate encounters with life. Through one of the not so fortunate, Delaney the main character of the book hits Candido an illegal immigrant who as come to American to fulfill the American dream. This book does a fantastic job at going from the life of Candido to Delaney. We see the struggles that Candido and his wife face by being illegal immigrants in the state of California, the hardship they go through to survive the world around them and how in the end they come through together. Delaney and his experience are geared more towards the average American lifestyle. He is more worried about his home getting walled in than he is about having a home. Compared to Candido this seems selfish and unrealistic but is an excellent parallel in today¿s world. J.C. Boyle did a great job in keeping the reader entertained. With every chapter jumping back and forth one did not get lost but had the urge to keep reading. Telling two stories in one is a difficult task but when the author can keep the reader hooked on the story without discouraging them then that is an excellent book. As well as being a great story the book also addresses a few political issues many Americans are faced with today. These issues include illegal immigration, gated communities, and fenced-in communities. These issues keep the story going and ¿real¿ for the reader. The book was a good read that will leave the reader turning one page after another. The reader will come back to the book after they have set it down wanting to know what will happen next or just thinking about an issue that the main characters are facing. This book is a must and strongly recommended. Read this amazing book as it was educating and stimulating!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted June 26, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK. I'D WANTED TO READ THIS BOOK FOR A L

    HIGHLY RECOMMEND THIS BOOK.
    I'D WANTED TO READ THIS BOOK FOR A LONG TIME, SO GLAD I DID. THE CHARACTERS AND STORY ARE UNFORTUNATELY SO VERY REAL IN TODAYS SOCIETY.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 2, 2011

    Great book that makes you think

    This story gripped me from the beginning and the ending delivers. Everything that is wrong with the class system in the US is embodied here by these two couples.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 1, 2011

    I Also Recommend:

    You too will love this book!

    I read it for an English college course I took and I was hooked. This is a must read book and you will not be disappointed.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    Flashes of Brilliance Don't Redeem a Ridiculous Plot

    I had a hard time deciding what to rate this, because this is a book with flashes of brilliance and insight which ultimately I don't think works. The book follows two couples that live near each other in the outskirts of Los Angeles: one a rich white tofu-eating liberal American couple, Delaney and Kyra; the other two illegal immigrant Mexicans, Candido and America, squatting on public land.

    The two families first come into contact when Delaney runs over Candido in his car. Candido is able to walk away from the accident--Delaney sops his conscience by giving Candido twenty dollars. Next we follow Candido down to where he's camped out with his pregnant wife. His desperate circumstances are effectively told, and the contrast and savage irony with Delaney's assumptions (and Delaney's own lyrical nature column on the glories of staying out in the wilderness) is priceless (which earned it the two stars). There are flashes of brilliant insight like that throughout the book, when Boyle is able to hold out contemporary Americans assumptions and prejudices to a bright satiric light that kept me reading. I felt mixed about Boyle's characterization of the Mexican couple at times--feeling there's something a bit too facile and caricatured about his characterizations that depended too much on a sprinkling of Spanish and bits of cultural trivia.

    But what ruined this book for me were the twists and turns of plot. This book had the potential to humanize the plight of the illegal immigrant, but in the end I feel it's too easy to simply roll your eyes at Boyle's book and dismiss it because of the ridiculous pile-on of disasters. I almost put the book down twice at certain events and the conclusion made me want to throw the book against the wall.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2009

    Definately recommended

    A thoroughly maddening novel of race relations and progressive disillusionment, Boyle crafts amazing characters who are sure to spark emotion (mainly frustration).

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 3, 2006

    Shame, Shame

    A 'tear jerker' but a wonderful social commentary.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2003

    The Best Book I Have Ever Read

    I am an avid reader of all types of books. But, I have never been as gripped by a book as this one. I literally could not put the book down and stayed up all one night reading it. And, still, many weeks later I find myself pondering all the nuances of the story. I live in California, and I disagree that Mr. Boyle got caught up in stereo-types. This books nails it all right on the head.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 28, 2003

    stunning and provocative read

    This enchanting book opened my eyes to the parrils of everyday life. The danger and daring adventures that illigal immigrants have to face just to live the so called American dream. The core of this book was the comparision to the everyday hardworking joe to the no troubles life style of a rich and shallow yuppie family. I have never quite read anything like this no nonsence book that lays it all out on the table and leave the reader to clean up the mess.

    1 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted December 13, 2013

    Must read

    A great book. I read this for a book club discussion and thoroughly enjoyed it. The author was able to pull at my sympathies and empathies for both sides in this story. Food for thought with the immigration issue.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2013

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted January 23, 2011

    Great Book

    I read this book in a matter of days. The characters are developed in such a way that each of their perspectives are fully understandable, thus really capturing the enormity of the struggle to resolve this real issue in the United States. In reading this I truly feared for the characters and was impressed by the way the author wove together many facets of the issue to build a more complete picture of the environment they lived in.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2010

    Great Characters and Plot

    Tortilla Curtain is a story that centers around four characters that have their own personal battles. Battles that deal with how they live, who they are, and how they survive in society. The best thing about this novel is the transformation of the characters, particularly Delaney. He makes a huge turn around in personality. He represents a person who is confused with who he is and what he wants. This story touches on many political, social,and ethical issues. The plot is surprising and very entertaining. The climax and ending are very original.

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  • Posted April 30, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Interesting Clash of Cultures

    This was a decent attempt at conveying the clash of cultures... the Anglo life and the Mexican immigrant. Definitely a social commentary novel and one often assigned for sophomore lit classes. I recommend another book that better addresses the two cultures... The Salvation of La Purisima by T. M. Spooner.

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  • Posted December 7, 2009

    Review of "Tortilla Curtain"

    A page-turner about the conflict between wealthy Americans and illegal Mexican immigrants in Topanga canyon near L.A. Great insights into the life of the indigent illegals, including Spanish slang. Exellent description of a wildfire. Realistic dialogue. But I didn't like the ending - the last couple of pages. I thought the ending was contrived.

    Marvin (Nick)Saines
    Las Vegas

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  • Posted May 5, 2009

    I Also Recommend:

    What can we do to help the tortilla curtain!

    It was difficult to read, yet I couldn't stop reading! I kept hoping the characters would find a way to be helpful to one another! It was a perfect picutre of the narrow view one so often has of the life one leads. Please let goodness become a driving force! At some point, one day, not yet! The characters were strong, likeable and......so.... real!

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