The House of Broken Angels – by Luis Alberto Urrea – independent book review – Fiction

A wildly imaginative dive deep into the center of a diverse Mexican-American family. Awarded 4 stars on Goodreads.  angels

I struggled initially with this book. But during the last 75-100 pages, it jumped decidedly from 3 stars to 4.

Luis Alberto Urrea (a winner of numerous literary awards) has written a fanciful, often humorous account of a Mexican-American family with diverse and imaginative members. They planned to gather to celebrate the family patriarch’s last birthday (he is dying from cancer) but it turned out to also be the same weekend as his mother’s funeral. So, the family attends both a funeral and a big party over the same weekend. And the party comes with a completely surprising twist.

The cast of characters is unusual. And Urrea fleshes each one out so fully and so creatively. There’s lots of drama — estranged children, aging beauties, victims of violence — as we uncover family histories full of poverty, crime, struggle, rivalries, and yes, the realization of the American dream. What comes across loud and clear is the fundamental connection of love within this family.

What made me struggle was the writing style. It’s very distinctive. At times it’s beautiful but at other times it seems so clipped and vague that I wasn’t quite sure what was going on. I considered abandoning the book but others who had read it urged me to continue. I’m glad I did. The ending is worth the struggle.

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