October 05, 2011

The Tortilla Curtain by T. Coraghessan Boyle

The Tortilla Curtain is a fictional telling of a year for two very different couples living in California. The first couple are of Mexican descent and are illegal immigrants. The other couple is a Californian yuppie type where the woman is the main breadwinner of the family.

I had heard nothing but great reviews before I read this story. Unfortunately, I didn't find it as stellar. While it paints a fairly accurate picture of what life can be like for these two very different sets of people, it almost draws it too far into the unreal.

I can believe that many unfortunate things happen to the Mexican couple, however, Boyle seems to string it along this much (and even he compares it to the trials of Job) and makes it quite unbelievable towards the end. With everything that happens, it literally does not make sense that this couple does not give up and therefore, in my opinion, makes the book unrealistic.

The other couple, while starting out interesting, soon falls into a character portrayal of being shallow and having no redeeming qualities. While most people are only out for themselves, I have trouble believing that the whole community and this couple are such terrible human beings. Surely Boyle could have included a glimmer of light somewhere.

The ending also leaves much to be desired as it seems very unfinished. It is almost as if the author himself had had it with the book and was giving up.

In all, while this book opens the eyes to the atrocities that happen to illegal aliens it becomes too fanciful and stereotypical to really reach out and grab hold of hearts for its cause.

The Tortilla Curtain
Copyright 1996
355 pages

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