The Barbarian Nurseries

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The great panoramic social novel that Los Angeles deserves—a twenty-first century, West Coast Bonfire of the Vanities by the only writer qualified to capture the city in all its glory and complexity

With The Barbarian Nurseries, Héctor Tobar gives our most misunderstood metropolis its great contemporary novel, taking us beyond the glimmer of Hollywood and deeper than camera-ready crime stories to reveal Southern California life as it really is,...

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Overview

The great panoramic social novel that Los Angeles deserves—a twenty-first century, West Coast Bonfire of the Vanities by the only writer qualified to capture the city in all its glory and complexity

With The Barbarian Nurseries, Héctor Tobar gives our most misunderstood metropolis its great contemporary novel, taking us beyond the glimmer of Hollywood and deeper than camera-ready crime stories to reveal Southern California life as it really is, across its vast, sunshiny sprawl of classes, languages, dreams, and ambitions.

Araceli is the live-in maid in the Torres-Thompson household—one of three Mexican employees in a Spanish-style house with lovely views of the Pacific. She has been responsible strictly for the cooking and cleaning, but the recession has hit, and suddenly Araceli is the last Mexican standing—unless you count Scott Torres, though you’d never suspect he was half Mexican but for his last name and an old family photo with central L.A. in the background. The financial pressure is causing the kind of fights that even Araceli knows the children shouldn’t hear, and then one morning, after a particularly dramatic fight, Araceli wakes to an empty house—except for the two Torres-Thompson boys, little aliens she’s never had to interact with before. Their parents are unreachable, and the only family member she knows of is Señor Torres, the subject of that old family photo. So she does the only thing she can think of and heads to the bus stop to seek out their grandfather. It will be an adventure, she tells the boys. If she only knew . . .

With a precise eye for the telling detail and an unerring way with character, soaring brilliantly and seamlessly among a panorama of viewpoints, Tobar calls on all of his experience—as a novelist, a father, a journalist, a son of Guatemalan immigrants, and a native Angeleno—to deliver a novel as broad, as essential, as alive as the city itself.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble

Araceli is a live-in maid who wakes up one morning to discover that her employers have abandoned their Los Angeles house and, more distressingly, their two young boys. Suddenly left with two young charges and no information about their parents' whereabouts, she follows the single available clue: an old photograph of their grandfather who, presumably, lives in central L.A. What begins a bus trip search for an unknown old man becomes, in Héctor Tobar's capable hands, the occasion of a panoramic novel about the rich complexities of one great American city. A subtle, endearing large-scale work.

Publishers Weekly
Tobar The Tattooed Soldier delivers a riveting, insightful morality tale of conspicuously consuming Americans and their Mexican servants in the O.C. When Maureen's failing tropical garden becomes a source of embarrassment, she charges its four-figure replacement, pushing her and software engineer husband Scott's already-tottering finances over the edge. A fight ensues, with Maureen crashing through a glass coffee table, and she flees with baby Samantha while Scott opts to repair his ego with another woman and by "taking a little break from being home," leaving their Mexican maid, Araceli, to care for their two young boys. The situation turns explosive when Araceli tries to ferry the boys to their grandfather, only to spark a full-blown Los Angeles media circus. 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. Oct.
Library Journal
Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tobar (The Tattooed Soldier) presents an original story of modern Southern California. Maureen and Scott Torres-Thompson live with their children in upscale Laguna Rancho Estates. Despite Scott's income as a computer game company vice president, bad investments and extravagant spending have forced them to fire their Mexican gardener and nanny. Housekeeper Araceli Ramirez must now do double duty. Though she's a dazzling cook, she's not up for child care, but her undocumented status forces her to accept the situation. Meanwhile, a disconnect is growing between Scott and Maureen. Without communicating to each other or to Araceli, they separately escape the pressures at home, and neither returns for four days. Araceli, alone and worried, has to do something, so she takes off with the two boys to Grandpa John's, with only a vague idea where he lives in central Los Angeles. When Scott and Maureen finally return, they are devastated to learn that their boys are missing with an undocumented Mexican nanny and make a call that changes all their lives forever. VERDICT Tobar's superb multilayered novel defines the social divide of Southern California, emphasizing in a complex and human way that there are no black-and-white answers in the immigration debate. [See Prepub Alert, 4/11/11.]—Donna Bettencourt, Mesa Cty. P.L., CO
Library Journal
Author of Translation Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Tobar translates his ideas into a first novel. When the recession hits, Araceli, a live-in maid in the Pacific Coast Torres-Thompson household, finds herself responsible for everything when the other two Mexican servants are let go—including the family's two children. Then she wakes up to discover that the parents have vanished. Billed as a panoramic social novel of Los Angeles, this strikes me as a panoramic social novel of America.
Kirkus Reviews

Bad parenting and Hispanics working in Southern California are at the core of Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist Tobar's novel.

Scott and Maureen Torres-Thompson are living the good life in Orange County, but when money problems begin to arise they reluctantly let go of most of their Mexican employees, leaving only Araceli Ramirez, their live-in maid. But tensions escalate between Scott and Maureen, culminating in a horrific argument after Maureen has their tropical forest uprooted and replaced by a desert garden costing twice what their previous gardener had earned in a year. Both husband and wife leave the house in a rage, each thinking the other will stay and take care of their three children, but while Maureen leaves with babe-in-arms Samantha, the two boys—eight and 11 years old—are left behind with the maid. Araceli does what she can to contact her employers, but for a few days they're incommunicado. When she begins to get desperate, she takes them on a journey to find their grandfather in the heart of Los Angeles. Soon Araceli recognizes the difficulty of her quest, for she's working from an old photograph and an outdated address. Meanwhile, Scott and Maureen return home, expecting to find their boys, and experience moments of panic and guilt when they find the house empty. They assume Araceli has kidnapped their sons, and when police get involved, the case explodes into acause célèbrewith Araceli at the center. From her point of view, she's merely taken the best care she can of the children, but from the parents perspective she's put them into danger by taking them into the wilds of L.A. And Scott and Maureen are extremely uncomfortable disclosing their own complicity in the situation, for they have, though unknowingly, abandoned their two sons for a four-day period.

A lively novel that examines both edgy stereotypes and uncomfortable truths.

Dinah Lenney
Once again, [Tobar] explores the boundaries that bind and divide families, neighborhoods and Southern Californians; this time, to darkly hilarious and moving effect…Tobar…is that rare male author who credibly inhabits a woman's point of view—both women, in fact, and a slew of other characters besides. If we spend more time with some than with others, it's a credit to Tobar that we feel we know them all…Sad, funny, seemingly inevitable—such are the metaphors and insights from Héctor Tobar, an author from whom we expect nothing less, and look forward to more.
—The Washington Post
From the Publisher
“A book of extraordinary scope and extraordinary power."—Los Angeles Times

 

"Tobar exhibits a seismographic sensitivity to the tensions along the fault lines of his cultural terrain....His illuminations become our recognitions."—The New York Times Book Review

 

"Both timely and timeless...Tobar continually creates moments of uncommon magic."—Elle

 

"Tobar looks at Los Angeles like Tom Wolfe took on New York in The Bonfire of the Vanities. Race, class, crime, immigration, marriage trouble, and tabloid-ready news stories—it's all here."—New York Post

 

"Each moment surprises....Darkly hilarious and moving."—The Washington Post

 

"That Tobar is so evenhanded, so compassionate, so downright smart, should place The Barbarian Nurseries on everyone's must-read list."—The Seattle Times

The Barnes & Noble Review

Some novels are so teeming with energy they seem to contain whole cities. Noisy, beautiful, irritating, pulsing planets full of immigrants and original sons and daughters: hucksters, winos, wisenheimers, and lost souls. Without the dimension added by these imaginary communities, our real metropolises would be impoverished, reduced to their simplest myths and glossiest images.

No city in America has needed such a book quite like Los Angeles. Its long boulevards and metal-gated shotgun houses, its water thieves and hustlers and Mexicanos have been occluded in fiction. Héctor Tobar's second novel, The Barbarian Nurseries, brings them all beautifully into view in a book so big you can get lost here. It tells a grand story, bulging with dozens of minor characters and one unforgettable heroine.

At the center of the family is not a mother or a father but a Mexican live-in domestic named Araceli. She works six days a week for $250 for the Torres-Thompson family, cooking, cleaning, and watching over their three children. Araceli was once one of several illegal immigrants from Mexico working in the home. Now, with Scott Torres's investments tanking and his wife, Maureen, determined to continue as if nothing has changed, Araceli's daily burden has become immense.

But her role balloons one morning when she wakes to discover that after an explosive argument both Scott and Maureen have fled their home, leaving Araceli alone with the two Torres boys. She waits, she frets, and then, when it seems they have been abandoned, she packs a bag and sets off on foot with the two boys in tow, in search of their Mexican-American grandfather. All she has is an old photo of the old man and an idea of where he used to live.

Araceli's bold move will later prove devastating for her and the Torres-Thompson family, but it is the moment when The Barbarian Nurseries begins to soar. Like Odysseus' endless journey home, Araceli and the boys' trek across town is full of strange and almost mystical encounters. They travel through the wasteland of Los Angeles' rail yards, its hauntingly decayed Union Station. They are taken in for a night by a Salvadorian woman and spend July 4th at a posh barbeque in Huntington Park, surrounded by young women with perfect American accents who attend Ivy League schools.

Tobar, who won a Pulitzer Prize in reporting for the Los Angeles Times, has a prismatic, relentless eye for the many layers of American-ness at work in the O.C., often within the same person, and uncomfortably so. The man hosting the barbeque looks down upon his fellow immigrant neighbors, who have not yet saved enough to buy their own homes. A Mexican-American border guard, whose story threads briefly though the novel, finds no contradiction between his background and his job.

Reporters who write novels are often a little heavy-handed with themes, and Tobar is guilty of this throughout The Barbarian Nurseries. But he is so confident in his ability to enter his characters' minds that this leftover scaffolding falls away, again and again. While Araceli marches across town, embracing a responsibility she never wanted, Tobar tracks Scott and Maureen in their respective flights from responsibility. Scott holes up at a co- worker's house and plays video games for two days; Maureen goes to a spa.

As awful as their negligence sounds, Tobar spends such a sizable section of the novel's opening depicting Scott and Maureen's parental and financial exhaustion that one almost understands their instincts for self-pampering and escape. Araceli might be rescuing the boys, but she is no saint, either. One of her petty vanities is intellectual pretension. Even while people are helping her—and later defending her—she judges their fashion, their accents, even their cooking.

In the novel's closing pages, Maureen and Scott finally return home, discover the children missing, and file a missing persons report, turning their private drama into a public one. The media frenzy over the mangled and manipulated story of the maid who left with the children—maybe fleeing for the border!—provides enough accelerant to bring this huge story to a roaring climax. As readers we are at once voyeurs and participants. We know why Araceli left, and we've witnessed what the boys have seen. It is their Los Angeles, the city that has been all around them and invisible, until now.

John Freeman is the editor of Granta and the author of The Tyranny of E-mail.

Reviewer: John Freeman

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780374108991
  • Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
  • Publication date: 9/27/2011
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 6.32 (w) x 9.26 (h) x 1.37 (d)

Meet the Author

A Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and novelist, Héctor Tobar writes a weekly column for the Los Angeles Times. His previous books include Translation Nation, a sweeping survey of immigration in America, and the novel The Tattooed Soldier. The son of Guatemalan immigrants, he is a native of the city of Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and three children.

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Read an Excerpt

THE BARBARIAN NURSERIES (Chapter 1)

Scott Torres was upset because the lawn mower wouldn't start, because no matter how hard he pulled at the cord, it didn't begin to roar. His exertions produced only a brief flutter of the engine, like the cough of a sick child, and then an extended silence filled by the buzzing of two dragonflies doing figure eights over the uncut St. Augustine grass. The lawn was precocious, ambitious, eight inches tall, and for the moment it could entertain jungle dreams of one day shading the house from the sun. The blades would rise as long as he pulled at the cord and the lawn mower coughed. He gripped the cord's plastic handle, paused and leaned forward to gather breath and momentum, and tried again. The lawn mower roared for an instant, spit a clump of grass from its jutting black mouth, and stopped. Scott stepped back from the machine and gave it the angry everyman stare of fatherliness frustrated, of a handyman being unhandy.

Araceli, his Mexican maid, watched him from the kitchen window, her hands covered with a white bubble-skin of dishwater. She wondered if she should tell el señor Scott the secret that made the lawn mower roar. When you turned a knob on the side of the engine, it made starting the machine as easy as pulling a loose thread from a sweater. She had seen Pepe play with this knob several times. But no, she decided to let el señor Scott figure it out himself. Scott Torres had let Pepe and his chunky gardener's muscles go: she would allow this struggle with the machine to be her boss's punishment.

El señor Scott opened the little cap on the mower where the gas goes in, just to check. Yes, it has gas. Araceli had seen Pepe fill it up that last time he was here, on that Thursday two weeks ago when she almost wanted to cry because she knew she would never see him again.

Pepe never had any problems getting the lawn mower started. When he reached down to pull the cord it caused his bicep to escape his sleeve, revealing a mass of taut copper skin that hinted at other patches of skin and muscle beneath the old cotton shirts he wore. Araceli thought there was art in the stains on Pepe's shirts; they were an abstract expressionist whirlwind of greens, clayish ocher, and blacks made by grass, soil, and sweat. A handful of times she had rather boldly brought her lonely fingertips to these canvases. When Pepe arrived on Thursdays, Araceli would open the curtains in the living room and spray and wipe the squeaky clean windows just so she could watch him sweat over the lawn and imagine herself nestled in the protective cinnamon cradle of his skin: and then she would laugh at herself for doing so. I am still a girl with silly daydreams. Pepe's disorderly masculinity broke the spell of working and living in the house and when she saw him in the frame of the kitchen window she could imagine living in the world outside, in a home with dishes of her own to wash, a desk of her own to polish and fret over, in a room that wasn't borrowed from someone else.

Araceli enjoyed her solitude, her apartness from the world, and she liked to think of working for the Torres-Thompson family as a kind of self-imposed exile from her previous, directionless life in Mexico City. But every now and then she wanted to share the pleasures of this solitude with someone and step outside her silent California existence, into one of her alternate daydream lives: she might be a midlevel Mexican government functionary, one of those tough, big women with a mean sense of humor and a leonine, rust-tinted coiffure, ruling a little fiefdom in a Mexico City neighborhood; or she might be a successful artist—or maybe an art critic. Pepe figured in many of her fantasies as the quiet and patient father of their children, who had chic Aztec names such as Cuitláhuac and Xóchitl. In these extended daydreams Pepe was a landscape architect, a sculptor, and Araceli herself was ten kilos thinner, about the weight she had been before coming to the United States, because her years in California had not been kind to her waistline.

All of her Pepe reveries were over now. They were preposterous but they were hers, and their sudden absence felt like a kind of theft. Instead of Pepe she had el señor Scott to look at, wrestling with the lawn mower and the cord that made it start. At last, Scott discovered the little knob. He began to make adjustments and he pulled at it again. His arms were thin and oatmeal-colored; he was what they called here "half Mexican," and after twenty minutes in the June sun his forearms, forehead, and cheeks were the glowing crimson of McIntosh apples. Once, twice, and a third time el señor Scott pulled at the cord, turning the knob a little more each time, until the engine began to kick, sputter, and roar. Soon the air was green with flying grass, and Araceli watched the corner of her boss's lips rise in quiet satisfaction. Then the engine stopped, the sound muffled in an instant, because the blade choked on too much lawn.

Neither of her bosses informed Araceli beforehand of the momentous news that she would be the last Mexican working in this house. Araceli had two bosses, whose surnames were hyphenated into an odd, bilingual concoction: Torres-Thompson. Oddly, la señora Maureen never called herself "Mrs. Torres," though she and el señor Scott were indeed married, as Araceli had discerned on her first day on the job from the wedding pictures in the living room and the identical gold bands on their fingers. Araceli was not one to ask questions, or to allow herself to be pulled into conversation or small talk, and her dialogues with her jefes were often austere affairs dominated by the monosyllabic "Yes," "Sí," and, occasionally, "No." She lived in their home twelve days out of every fourteen, but was often in the dark when new chapters opened in the Torres-Thompson family saga: for example, Maureen's pregnancy with the couple's third child, which Araceli found out about only because of her jefa's repeated vomiting one afternoon.

"Señora, you are sick. I think my enchiladas verdes are too strong for you. ¿Qué no?"

"No, Araceli. It's not the green sauce. I'm going to have a baby. Didn't you know?"

Money was supposedly the reason why Pepe and Guadalupe departed. Araceli found out late one Wednesday morning two weeks earlier, following an animated conversation in the backyard between la señora Maureen and Guadalupe that Araceli witnessed through the sliding glass doors of the living room. When their conversation ended, Guadalupe walked into the living room to announce to Araceli curtly, "I'm going to look for some chinos to work for. They can afford to pay me something decent, not the centavos these gringos want to give me." Guadalupe was a fey mexicana with long braids and a taste for embroidered Oaxacan blouses and overwrought indigenous jewelry, and also a former university student like Araceli. Now her eyes were reddened from crying, and her small mouth twisted with a sense of betrayal. "After five years, they should be giving me a raise. But instead they want to cut my pay; that's how they reward my loyalty." Araceli looked out the living room windows to see la señora Maureen also wiping tears from her eyes. "La señora knows I was like a mother to her boys," Guadalupe said, and it was one of the last things Araceli heard from her.

So now there was only Araceli, alone with el señor Scott, la señora Maureen, and their three children, in this house on a hill high above the ocean, on a cul-de-sac absent of pedestrians or playing children, absent of traffic, absent of the banter of vendors and policemen. It was a street of long silences. When the Torres-Thompsons and their children left on their daily excursions, Araceli would commune alone with the home and its sounds, with the kick and purr of the refrigerator motor, and the faint whistle of the fans hidden in the ceiling. It was a home of steel washbasins and exotic bathroom perfumes, and a kitchen that Araceli had come to think of as her office, her command center, where she prepared several meals each day: breakfast, lunch, dinner, and assorted snacks and baby "feedings." A single row of Talavera tiles ran along the peach-colored walls, daisies with blue petals and bronze centers. After she'd dried the last copper-tinged saucepan and placed it on a hook next to its brothers and sisters, Araceli performed the daily ritual of running her hand over the tiles. Her fingertips transported her, fleetingly, to Mexico City, where these porcelain squares would be weather-beaten and cracked, decorating gazebos and doorways. She remembered her long walks through the old seventeenth-, eighteenth-, and nineteenth-century streets, a city built of ancient lava stone and mirrored glass, a colonial city and an Art Deco city and a Modernist city all at once. In her solitude her thoughts would wander from Mexico City to the various other stops on her life journey, a string of encounters and misfortunes that would eventually and inevitably circle back to the present. Now she lived in an American neighborhood where everything was new, a landscape vacant of the meanings and shadings of time, each home painted eggshell-white by association rule, like featureless architect models plopped down by human hands on a stretch of empty savanna. Araceli could see the yellow clumps of vanquished meadows hiding in the unseen spaces around the Torres-Thompson home, blades sprouting up by the trash cans and the massive air-conditioning plant, and in the rectangles cut into the sidewalk where young, man-sized trees grew.

When Araceli stood before the living room picture window and stared out at the expanse of the ocean a mile or two in the distance, she could imagine herself on that unspoiled hillside of wild grasses. Several times each day, she walked out of the kitchen and into the living room to study the horizon, a hazy line where the gray-blue of the sea seeped into a cloudless sky. Then the shouts and screams of the two Torres-Thompson boys and the intermittent crying of their baby sister returned her to the here and now.

When there were three mexicanos working in this house they could fill the workday hours with banter and gossip. They made fun of el señor Scott and his very bad pocho accent when he tried to speak Spanish and tried to guess how it was that such an awkward and poorly groomed man had found himself paired with an ambitious North American wife. Guadalupe, the nanny, cooed over the baby, Samantha, and played with Keenan and the older boy, Brandon. It was Guadalupe who taught the boys to say things like buenas tardes and muchas gracias. Araceli, the housekeeper and cook, was in charge of the bathrooms and kitchen, the vacuum cleaners and dishrags, the laundry and the living room. And Pepe, with the hands that kept the huge leaves of the elephant plant erect, that made the cream-colored ears of the calla lilies bloom, and the muscles that kept the lawn respectably short. They filled the house with Spanish repartee, Guadalupe teasing Araceli about how handsome Pepe was, Araceli responding with double entendres that always seemed to go right over Pepe's head.

"Your machine is so powerful, it can cut anything!"

"Es que tiene mucho horsepower."

"Yes, I can see how much power there is in all those horses of yours."

Pepe was a magician, a da Vinci of gardeners, worth twice what they paid him. How long would the orange beaks of the heliconias in the backyard open to the sky without Pepe's thick, smart fingers to bring them to life? The money situation must be very bad. Why else would el señor Scott be outside in this white sun, burning his fair skin? The idea that these people would be short of money made little sense to her. But why else would Maureen be changing the baby's diapers herself, and looking exasperated at the boys because they were playing on their electronic toys too long? Guadalupe, the aspiring schoolteacher, was no longer there to distract them with those games they played, outside on the grass with soap bubbles, or inside the house with Mexican lottery cards, the boys calling out "El corazón," "El catrín," and "¡Lotería!" in Spanish. Through the picture window in the living room, Araceli studied el señor Scott as he struggled to push the mower over the far edge of the lawn where it dropped off into a steep slope. TORO said the bag on the side of the lawn mower. No wonder el señor Scott was having so much trouble: the lawn mower was a bull! Only Pepe, in a gleaming bullfighter's uniform, with golden epaulets, could tease the Toro forward.

Araceli made el señor Scott a lemonade and walked out into the searing light to give it to him, as much to inspect his work as anything else.

"¿Limonada?" she asked.

"Thanks," he said, taking the wet glass. Beads of water dripped down the glass, like the beads of sweat on el señor Scott's face. He looked away from her, inspecting the blades of grass, how they were sprayed across the concrete path that ran through the middle of the lawn.

"The work. It is very hard," Araceli offered. "El césped. The grass. It is very thick."

"Yeah," he said, looking at her warily, because this was more conversation than he was used to hearing from his surly but dependable maid. "This mower is too old."

But it was good enough for Pepe! Araceli glanced at the grass, saw the brown crescents el señor Scott had inadvertently carved into the green carpet, and tried not to look displeased. Pepe used to stop there to adjust the height of the mower, and Araceli would come out and give him lemonade just like she was giving el señor Scott now. Pepe would say "Gracias" and give her a raffish smile in that instant when his eyes met hers before quickly turning away.

El señor Scott swallowed the lemonade and returned the glass to Araceli without another word.

As she walked back to the house, the lingering smell of the cut grass sent her into a depression. Exactly how bad was the money situation? she wondered. How much longer would el señor Scott mow the lawn himself and wrestle with the Toro? What was going on in the lives of these people? They had let Guadalupe go, and from Guadalupe's anger she imagined that it was without the two months' severance pay that was standard practice in the good houses of Mexico City, unless they caught you stealing the jewelry or abusing the children. Araceli was beginning to see that it was necessary to take a greater interest in the lives of her employers. She sensed developments that might soon impact the life of an unknowing and otherwise trusting mexicana. Back in the kitchen, she looked at el señor Scott through the window again. He tugged at the cut grass with a rake and made green mounds, and then embraced each mound with his arms and dumped it into a trash bag, blades sticking to his sweaty arms and hands. She watched him brush the grass off his arms and suddenly there was an unexpected pathos about him: el señor Scott, the unlikely lord of this tidy and affluent mansion, reduced to a tiller's role, harvesting the undisciplined product of the soil, when he should be inside, in the shade, away from the sun.

A moment after Araceli stepped away from the picture window, Maureen Thompson took her place, taking a good, long minute to inspect her husband's work. The mistress of the house was a petite, elegant woman of thirty-eight, with creamy skin and a perpetually serious air. This summer morning she was wearing Audrey Hepburn capri pants, and she strode about the house with a confident, relaxed, but purposeful gait. She ran this household like the disciplined midlevel corporate executive she had once been, with an eye on the clock and on the frayed edges of her daily household life, vigilant for scattered toys and half-full trash cans and unfinished homework. The sight of her husband struggling with the lawn mower caused her to briefly chew at the ends of her ginger-brown hair. Could la señora see the yellow crescents at the beginning of the slope, Araceli wondered, or was she just put off to see her husband dripping sweat onto the concrete? Araceli examined la señora Maureen examining el señor Scott and thought it was interesting that when you worked or lived with someone long enough you could allow your eyes to linger on that person for a while without being noticed: Pepe, a stranger, always caught Araceli when she stared at him.

Much like her Mexican maid, Maureen Thompson had also sensed the disturbing non sequitur playing itself out on the other side of the glass: her theoretician, her distracted man of big ideas, the man she had once proclaimed, in a postcoital whisper, "the King of the Twenty-first Century," frustrated this Saturday afternoon by a technological relic from the previous millennium. They had been married for twelve years of professional triumphs and corporate humiliations, of cash windfalls and nights of infant illnesses, but nothing quite like this particular comedy. He's having trouble just keeping the thing running. It uses gasoline: how complicated can it be? Her eyes shifted to the drawn curtains of the neighbors' houses, the blank windows that reflected the blank California sky, and she wondered who else might be watching. She had not agreed with the calculus her husband had made, the scratched-out set of figures whose bottom line was the departure of the more-than-competent and reliable gardener, a man of silent nobility who, she sensed, had tended the soil in a distant tropical village. Scott was a software kind of guy—both in the literal sense of being a writer of computer programs, and also in the more figurative sense of being someone for whom the physical world was a confusing array of unpredictable biological and mechanical phenomena, like the miraculous process of photosynthesis and the arcane varieties of Southern California weed species, or the subtle, practiced gestures that were required, apparently, to maneuver a lawn mower over an uneven surface. Later on he'll look back at this and laugh. Her husband was a witty man, with a sharp eye for irony, though that quality had deserted him now, judging from the sweaty scowl on his face. Hard labor will cleanse you of irony: it was a lesson from her own childhood and young womanhood that returned to her now, unexpectedly.

It was a short walk across the living room to a second picture window, this one looking out to the backyard tropical garden, which was suffering a subtle degradation that was, in its own way, more advanced than the overgrowth of the front lawn had been. They had planted this garden not long after moving in five years earlier, to fill up the empty quarter acre at the rear of their property, and until now it glistened and shimmered like a single dark and moist organism, cooling the air that rushed through it. With the flip of a switch, a foot-wide creek ran through the garden, its waters collecting in a small pond behind the banana tree. Now the leaves of that banana tree were cracking and the nearby ferns were turning golden. Not long after Scott dropped the little bomb about Pepe, Maureen had made a halfhearted attempt at weeding "la petite rain forest," as she and Scott called it, making an initial foray into the section of the garage where she had seen Pepe store some chemicals. She had no green thumb but guessed that keeping a tropical garden alive in this dry climate took some sort of petrochemical intervention: pest and weed control, fertilizers. Unfortunately, she had been frightened off by the bottles and their warning labels: Maureen had stopped breast-feeding only a few weeks earlier and was not yet ready to surrender the purity of body and mind that breast-feeding engendered. If she hadn't yet given in to the temptation of a shot of tequila—though she suspected she soon would—why was she going to open a bottle marked with a skull and crossbones and the even more ominous corporate logo of a major oil company?

A downpour of dust and dirt was killing their patch of rain forest; she would have to step in and care for it or it would wither up in the dry air, and as she thought this she felt a pang of anxiousness, a very brief shortness of breath. It isn't just the garden and the lawn, is it? Maureen Thompson had spent her teens and her twenties shedding herself of certain memories forged in a very ordinary Missouri street lined with shady sugar maple trees, where the leaves turned in October and it snowed a few days every winter, and the weather aged the things people left on their porches and no one seemed to care. Those days seemed distant now: they fit into two boxes at the bottom of one of her closets, outnumbered by many other boxes filled with the mementos of her arrival in California and life with Scott. Here on their hillside, on this street called Paseo Linda Bonita, one day followed the next with a comfortable and predictable rhythm: meals were cooked, children were dressed in the morning and put to bed at night, and in between the flaming sun set over the Pacific in a daily and almost ridiculously overwrought display of nature's grandeur. All was well in her universe and then suddenly, and often without any discernible reason, she felt this vague but penetrating sense of impending darkness and loss. Most often it happened when her two boys were away at school, when she stood in their bedroom and sensed an absence that could, from one moment to the next, grow permanent; or when she stood naked in the bathroom, her wet hair in a towel, and she caught a glimpse of her body in the mirror, and sensed its vulnerability, her mortality, and wondered if she had asked too much of it by bringing three children into the world.

But no, now it passed. She returned to the living room and the picture window, where the drama on the front lawn had reached a kind of conclusion and the King of the Twenty-first Century was sweeping up the grass on the walkway.

When Scott Torres was a kid living in South Whittier he cut the lawn himself, and as he pushed the machine over the slope of his bloated home in the Laguna Rancho Estates, he tried to draw on those lessons his father had passed down two decades earlier, on a cul-de-sac called Safari Drive, where all the lawns were about a quarter the size of the one he was cutting right now. Try to get the thing moving smoothly, check the height of the wheels, watch out for any foreign object on the grass because the blades will catch it, send it flying like a bullet. His father paid him five dollars a week, the first money Scott ever earned. Like the other two adults in this home, Scott had been put in a reflective mood by the unusual events of the past few days, by the departure of two members of their team of hired help, and by the June shift in domestic seasons. Summer vacation was upon them and yesterday had been filled with the summing-up celebration of their two boys' return from the final day of third and fifth grade with large folders filled with a semester's worth of completed homework and oversized art projects that their mother oohed and aahed over. Now he brought the mower over the last patch of uncut grass and gave it a haircut too.

Scott stopped the engine and breathed in the scent of freshly cut grass and lawn mower exhaust, the pungent bouquet a powerful memory-trigger of his days of teenage chores. He remembered the olive tree in front of the Torres family home in South Whittier, and many other things that had nothing to do with lawns or lawn mowers, like working on his Volkswagen—his first car—in the driveway, and the feathered chestnut hair and the Ditto jeans of the somewhat chunky girl who lived across the street. What was her name? Nadine. The olive tree dropped black fruit onto the sidewalk and one of Scott's jobs back then was to take a hose and wash away the stains. The neighborhood of his youth was a collection of flimsy boxes held together by wallpaper and epoxy, plopped down on a cow pasture. The Laguna Rancho Estates were something altogether different. When Scott had first come to this house the lawn had not yet been planted, there was a patch of raw dirt with stakes and string pounded into it, and he had watched the Mexican work crews arrive with trays of St. Augustine grass to plant. In five years, the roots created a dense living weave in the soil, and he had struggled to make his haircut of it look even; in fact, he failed. After he raked up the grass he noticed the blades that stuck to his sweaty arms, and as he wiped them off he thought that each was like a penny when you added up how much you saved by cutting the lawn yourself.

Two weeks earlier, he had quickly calculated what he paid the gardener over the course of a year and had come to a surprisingly large four-figure number. The problem with these Mexican gardeners was that you had to pay them in cash; you had to slap actual greenbacks into their callused hands at the end of the day. The only way around it was to go out there in the sun and do it yourself, because bringing these hardworking Mexicans into your home was expensive, and in the end all those hours the Mexicans worked without complaint added up. That was also the problem with Guadalupe: too many hours.

Scott's parents were frugal people, much like Pepe the gardener: Scott could see this in his methodical, cautious count of the bills Scott gave him. Pepe scratched out the amount with a stubby golf course pencil he kept in his wallet along with a piece of invariably soiled paper. Scott's father was Mexican, which in the California of Scott's youth was synonymous with poverty, and his mother was a square-jawed rebel from Maine, a place where good discipline in the use of funds was standard Protestant practice. Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without. Scott remembered his late mother standing in the doorway of that South Whittier home under the canopy of the olive tree, watching him earn his five dollars with her frugal eyes, and felt like a man waking up from a long drinking binge as he looked back at the white house with the ocher-tile roof that rose before him. His home had become a sun-drenched vault filled with an astonishing variety of purchased objects: the coffee table handmade by a Pasadena artist from distressed Mexican pine and several thick, bubbling panes of hand-blown glass; the wrought-iron wall grilles shipped in from Provence and the Chesterfield sofa of moss-green leather; a handcrafted crib from the Czech Republic.

We have behaved and spent very badly. Scott held on to this idea as he rolled the creaking, cooling mower into the garage, feeling a meek, half-defeated self-satisfaction. I cut the goddamn grass myself. It wasn't rocket science. He reentered the house and his Mexican maid gave him an odd smile with some sort of secondary meaning he could not discern. This woman was more likely to ignore you when you said hello in the morning, or to turn down her lips in disapproval if you made a suggestion. Still, they were lucky to have her as their last domestic employee. Araceli was the only person in this house besides Scott who understood frugality: she never failed to save the leftovers in Tupperware; she reused the plastic bags from the supermarket and spent the day turning off lights Maureen and the children left on. Scott had never been to the deeper reaches of Mexico where Araceli hailed from, and he had only once been to his maternal homeland in the upper reaches of Maine, but he sensed they were both places that produced sober people with tiny abacuses in their heads.

A few moments later Scott had slipped out of the kitchen and looked through the sliding glass doors that led out to the backyard and felt like an idiot. He had forgotten about the garden, the so-called, misnamed "tropical" garden, which was actually a "subtropical" garden, according to the good people at the nursery who had planted the thing. For the first time Scott contemplated its verdant hollows and shadows with the eye of a workingman, a blister or two having formed on his palms thanks to his efforts on the front lawn. He remembered Pepe wading into this semi-jungle with a machete, and the crude noise of his blade striking fleshy plants, emerging with old palm fronds or withering flowers. Scott wasn't ready to enter into that jungle today, although he would soon have to. It seemed to him it would take a village of Mexicans to keep that thing alive, a platoon of men in straw hats, wading with bare feet into the faux stream that ran through the middle of it. Pepe did it all on his own. He was a village unto himself, apparently. Scott wasn't a village and he decided to forget about the tropical garden for the time being because it was in the backyard, after all, and who was going to notice?

THE BARBARIAN NURSERIES Copyright © 2011 by Héctor Tobar

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Interviews & Essays

How did the character of Araceli, the Mexican maid at the center of The Barbarian Nurseries, come to be?
Years ago, I was sitting inside my car in a campus parking lot. This was at about the time the debate against illegal immigration had started to get really fierce (again, this was many, many years ago). I think I might have attended a pro-immigrant protest or two a day earlier, and was just feeling really riled up. Suddenly, the image of a suburbanite forced to cut his own lawn without Mexican help popped into my head—followed quickly by the idea that he's being watched by his other servant, a housekeeper, who is also Mexican. That became the opening of a novel that I would later finish, then discard, and then take up again many years later. Really, Araceli is my alter ego. She's a stand-in for the Héctor who can still feel like an outsider in the city in which he was born and raised.
You've worked for the Los Angeles Times for many years in variety of capacities, from beat reporter to foreign correspondent to, now, weekly columnist. How did your work as a journalist affect The Barbarian Nurseries?
I think being a journalist who writes fiction is sort of like being a Method actor. As a novelist, you become a character and enter their psyche. A Method actor taps into his or her own experiences to achieve the same result on stage. As a journalist, I'm constantly listening to people. I'm sitting in their homes, talking to them at their place of work. Probably I've done a few thousand interviews over the years. In my best interviews, I listen very intently: and then later I "become" my subject in the sense that I tell a story from their point of view. This daily work is great exercise for being a novelist because I'm exposed to so many different kinds of people and places. Journalism also teaches the novelist some practical work habits: I like to go and see things before I write about them, because experience has taught me that I'll always stumble upon something my imagination couldn't possibly have dreamed up. For The Barbarian Nurseries I went and "scouted" Southern California locations for certain passages.
Your last book, Translation Nation, was nonfiction. What made you decide to write a novel?
Writing a novel is a completely impractical thing to do. Everyone tells you it's impossible to get published, that no one ever makes any money writing novels, that no one has the time to read anymore, etc., etc. But I've decided to write novels novel anyway, for the same reason that I drink too much wine or eat too much Mexican food: I simply can't stop myself. I'm addicted to the acquisition of language, and to the use of that language to create prose. Creating a novel is the ultimate high for the prose addict. Imagining people, emotions and places and crafting the words that bring them to life on the page is what makes me happy. That's why, buried deep in The Barbarian Nurseries, you'll find a love poem to reading and to wordsmiths, including two of the greatest: my plot turns on a Shakespeare quote, and one of the characters is an 11-year-old Don Quixote who's read too much.
The Barbarian Nurseries has been compared to everything from Bonfire of the Vanities to The Help. Were there particular books that influenced your writing of the book?
I read Bonfire of the Vanities about the time I started The Barbarian Nurseries. While the book I wrote is very, very different, I did take from Tom Wolfe a few key things: there's the scope of the novel, with its multiple points of view across class lines; and there's bits and pieces of voyeuristic reportage (the passages in the courts and jails, especially). But the book I wanted to write was closer to Cheever and Chekhov. The first section is called "The Succulent Garden" as a homage to Chekhov's The Cherry Orchard, and in the latter part of the book there's an angry suburban woman inspired by a Cheever story called "The Wrysons" (available in Cheever's Collected Stories). The dreamier, middle section of the book, with its journey into the heart of Los Angeles, took some inspiration from Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities and from Cervantes' Don Quixote. Finally, there are allusions to American history and American literature throughout the book because I wanted to write a book that was rooted in those traditions. The first line of the second section, for example, is a tribute to Richard Wright's Native Son, which also begins with an alarm sounding. When Araceli is arrested and refuses to speak, she is only doing what Bigger Thomas does when he's arrested in Native Son. And in the final section of the book, there are several echoes to Huckleberry Finn, with an Interstate freeway taking the place of the Mississippi River.
Who have you discovered lately?
A few years back I picked up Austerlitz by W.G. Sebald, but only got around to reading it this summer. It's a wonderful work about the memories hiding in the urban landscape, and about the cruelties Europeans inflicted on each other in the 20th Century. It's very Proustian, and also a painfully beautiful read. I also read, recently, Thoughts Without Cigarettes, a memoir by Oscar Hijuelos, the Pulitzer-winning novelist [and Discover selection for The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love- Ed.] It's a wonderful portrait of West Harlem, New York, in the middle of the last century, and it also about Hijuelos' struggle to understand his Cuban roots and to become a writer. And I'm thoroughly enjoying Erin Aubry Kaplan's soon to be released collection of essays Black Talk, Blue Thoughts, and Walking the Color Line.

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Reading Group Guide

Introduction
Just as Tom Wolfe captured the excesses of a generation in The Bonfire of the Vanities, Pulitzer Prize winner Héctor Tobar has crafted a novel that defines America at the dawn of the twenty-first century. Beginning in a tony Orange County suburb, this is a portrait of the peculiar intersection between newly rich progressives, now suffering from 401(k) jitters, and the undocumented immigrant servants who keep them from having to face reality.

In the Torres-Thompson household, only the maid, Araceli, has survived the recent downsizing. The gardener and nanny have been let go, leaving Araceli to maintain order in an increasingly unruly family. Limited by the language barrier, she silently marvels at the abundance of clothes and toys and other luxuries crammed into her employers' home, though she sees no beauty in their gated community, especially when compared to the historical riches of Mexico City.

Fed up with economizing, Maureen Thompson hires a high-end landscaping firm to renovate the poolside garden. She doesn't tell her husband, Scott, and the ensuing credit-card revelation pushes them to the brink. One morning, after Scott and Maureen have had an especially volatile fight, Araceli wakes to find them gone. As the hours tick by, fading into night, she tries to maintain a routine for their two boys, who have been left behind. She is anxious for the boys' parents to return, but they don't. When the list of emergency contacts proves useless, Araceli embarks on an odyssey to find Scott's Mexican father, taking the boys with her by bus and train as they travel through the poorest neighborhoods of Los Angeles in search of Señor Torres. When the media find out what she's done, her actions spark a firestorm; instead of being seen as a hero, she is labeled a kidnapper, while Children's Services takes aim at Scott and Maureen.

Captivating and provocative, The Barbarian Nurseries holds a mirror up to the many faces of contemporary California. We hope this guide will enrich your experience of Héctor Tobar's uproarious examination of the new American Dream.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. What were your initial impressions of the Torres-Thompson family and Araceli? How did your understanding of them change throughout the novel?

2. Maureen and Scott, along with their friends, consider themselves to be progressive. How would they need to change if they were to bring about true progress in their community? Are the newly rich of this century very different from wealthy entrepreneurs from other generations?

3. Do Araceli and the other servants in the neighborhood have any leverage, or are they entirely powerless with their employers?

4. Discuss Los Angeles as if it were a character in the novel. What personalities and history are captured in the neighborhoods Araceli travels to, with and without Brandon and Keenan? How do the extremes of rich and poor affect the city as a whole? Do Brandon and Keenan see the world the same way as other characters in the novel, even though neither one of them has traveled far before (except through fiction)?

5. In Maureen's and Scott's minds, what does good parenting look like? How is this different from Araceli's parenting standards? How does Brandon and Keenan's childhood compare to their parents' childhood?

6. Does Maureen treat her baby daughter, Samantha, differently from her sons? What does it mean for her to have a little girl in a household of males? When Maureen and Scott have power struggles, does gender come into play?

7. In the scenes depicting Araceli's time off, what is most striking to you about her true self and her lost dreams of being an artist with a college education?

8. What would America look like—economically, socially, and otherwise—if Janet Bryson had her way? Were you surprised when the author revealed how much Araceli earns per week ($250 cash, on top of room and board), as well as Pepe's annual salary range (in the four figures)?

9. At every turn, Tobar finds a place for humor while keeping the story line tremendously realistic. What makes satire the best way to understand the issues of class and immigration raised in the novel? How did it affect your reading to know that the author is a Los Angeles native whose parents emigrated from Guatemala?

10. Discuss the translation and language issues that arise in The Barbarian Nurseries, including the moments when non-native speakers try to use Spanish. Is Araceli in some ways protected by the fact that her English is limited?

11. Ultimately, whose fault is it that the Torres-Thompson children were briefly without parents? Could something similar have happened in your household? If so, would you have been grateful to Araceli or suspicious of her?

12. Why is Scott so different from his father? How has Grandfather Torres evolved since the time the photograph was taken?

13. The title is referenced in chapter eight, when Maureen looks at the landscapers and thinks to herself, "What am I doing, allowing these sweaty barbarians into my home?" In chapter ten, Araceli uses the expression qué barbaridad when she thinks about Maureen's not telling her where she's gone. Who are the barbarians in this novel? What is being nurtured in the "nurseries"?

14. In the closing scenes, many of the characters experience newfound freedom. What did they have to sacrifice in order to gain that freedom? How did their definition of freedom change?

15. How would you have answered Felipe's question in the novel's final lines?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 36 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(22)

4 Star

(6)

3 Star

(4)

2 Star

(1)

1 Star

(3)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 36 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 27, 2011

    One of the best books of 2011.

    Read the first paragraph. It is one of the many gems found throughout the book. However, if meaty prose like that isn't your thing, then you may be disappointed. (One goodreads reviewer referred to it as a "lardful lump of language.") I love to read paragraphs like that aloud and let them roll around my mouth like a full bodied red wine with a long finish.

    It's not intended to be a thriller and it's not about fast paced action. (I was quite surprised when I read comments showing that these were the reader's expectations of the book.)

    It's about family, materialism, immigration, "success", the mainstream media, our justice system, etc. In other words, it's social and cultural commentary and the author deftly skewers just about everybody and every point of view.

    I found it to be thought provoking. Especially since I was born in Los Angeles, but have lived in northern California for most of my life; and because I am also of mixed European and Hispanic descent, but without a Hispanic surname.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 24, 2011

    Would not recommend

    This book was a gross disappointment in many ways. The main character speaks in Spanish most of the time; so as a non spanish speaker I missed much of the interaction. The plot seems poorly thought out. Two examples are: (1) the employers Scott and Maureen are in serious financial difficulty, preparing to downsize to save money but at the end of book are looking to buy a house in South Pasadena in seven figures and (2) there is no definitive ending. This book is for a Spanish speaking reader. I definitely would not read other books by this author or recommend it for book club discussions. As an avid reader, I resent the time wasted reading this book and the money spent buying it.

    3 out of 8 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted October 15, 2011

    Excellent Read!!!!

    I loved this book!

    3 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted November 10, 2011

    Highly recommeded! Read slowly and savor.

    What an adventure! A wonderful ride, viewing the same set of circumstances through the eyes of various participants; through the eyes of the parents, striving to provide "things" for their family; through the eyes of their children, the receivers of "things"; through the eyes of their household help and her circle of friends. Two vastly different communities, vastly different value systems, and the reactions of these people to specific situations. I laughed, I cried, and this book gave me lots to think about!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted October 26, 2011

    Highly Recommended - moves right along and hold one's interests!

    Good novel showing how relationships develop and sometimeds falter due to lack of communication. Very timely and relevant to many family situations. Detailed development of characters that at times is quite humorous!

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 26, 2012

    LOVED IT/ This book was recommended to me by my cousin, so glad

    LOVED IT/
    This book was recommended to me by my cousin, so glad I took his advise. Because I was raised in Santa Ana, CA this story held my interest, loved the end too, I cheered for Araceli!

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2012

    A story that ties in with Current Events

    I enjoyed reading this book that tells the story of Mexican immigrants from their point of view. It is also about a family living the "American Dream" which turns out not to be as good as they thought it would be. I recommend it highly.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 11, 2012

    Excellent, thought provoking read!

    It is extremely refreshing to read a book that causes us to think through the deeper issues related to racism, economic status, and power. This novel has a depth that more fiction needs to have. Reading shouldn't just be for entertainment, but for enlightenment too.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 3, 2014

    This was a really fascinating and enjoyable story.  Loved the vo

    This was a really fascinating and enjoyable story.  Loved the voice of Araceli but was so impressed by how the author could empathize and create the tone and speech of all the other characters.  A lovely ride of a story.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 23, 2013

    H

    The time of Bloodclan is over.Now the time of Boneclan has just begun!!!Join at meow result five.(P.S. Bring Screechkit)

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 10, 2013

    Hlxvotb

    Bm . Nkjsdjd x9 82uwhru.*

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 10, 2013

    TO ALL

    I need someonre to rp a kit named screechkit in bloodclan please help!

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013

    Leopardkit and Newhope

    An unusual golden spotted kit came in, mewling. Another full grown she carried the kit.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013

    Farrah

    The cream shecat pads in. "My name is Farrah and l used to own 2 orphanages. May l help with advertising and adopting and kits?"

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted August 9, 2013

    Starlight

    You may all join. Soory I was off. Shcool shopping. Bios in next result.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2013

    Amazing book

    This is a wonderful book. The depiction of personal and work dynamics and ambitions, interlocked with politics, sharp observations, immigration and racial policies, written with wit, deep penetration into human consiousness and motivations, salted with satir and humor and spiced with suspense.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2012

    Unborn kit

    Is there anyone who needs a kit?im Maplekit a orange shekit with white patches and green eyes ??(im not Mapleshade)

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 21, 2012

    Moonshine

    Hey! I am expecting kits. And they are due soon. Anyway....*drops to ground in pain.* o! My kits are coming! Help! it hurts so much!

    0 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 13, 2012

    RAWR!

    I am Sparklefire's mate. I have been..... following her around to find out where the fortune is. *Walks up to a cat*. Where is it? Where is the fortune? If you don't tell me, I will destroy the camp! RAWR!.... By the way, my name is... *dramatically pauses*.... Shadowblaze the Amazing Cat Who Needs the Fortune to be Even More Amazing... If That is Even Possible (I Already Am Way Amazing).... But... I guess you can call me Shadowblaze. TELL ME WHERE THE FORTUNE IS! RAAAAWWWWWR!

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 12, 2012

    SPARKLEFIRE: HELP I'M HAVING 23 KITS!

    Help please! I'm having kits! It feels like 2 dozen! My mate abandoned me, and I've been wondering the forest for 2 weeks! *she falls to the floor with a thud*. If I die... Tell my kits the fortune is in the... *dies*

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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