Book Review: The House of Broken Angels

Book Review: The House of Broken AngelsThe House of Broken Angels
by Luis Alberto Urrea
on March 6, 2018
Pages: 336
Goodreads

The definitive Mexican-American immigrant story, a sprawling and deeply felt portrait of a Mexican-American family occasioned by the impending loss of its patriarch, from one of the country's most beloved authors.

Prizewinning and bestselling writer Luis Urrea has written his Mexican coming-to-America story and his masterpiece. Destined to sit alongside other classic immigrant novels, The House of Broken Angels is a sprawling and epic family saga helmed by patriarch Big Angel. The novel gathers together the entire De La Cruz clan, as they meet for the final birthday party Big Angel is throwing for himself, at home in San Diego, as he nears the end of his struggle with cancer and reflects on his long and full life.

But when Big Angel's mother, Mama America, approaching one hundred, dies herself as the party nears, he must plan her funeral as well. There will be two family affairs in one weekend: a farewell double-header. Among the attendants is his half-brother and namesake, Little Angel, who comes face to face with the siblings with whom he shared a father but not, as the weekend proceeds to remind him, a life.

This story of the De La Cruzes is the story of what it means to be a Mexican in America, to have lived two lives across one border. It is a tale of the ravaging power of death to shore up the bits of life you have forgotten, whether by choice or not. Above all, this finely wrought portrait of a deeply complex family and the America they have come to call home is Urrea at his purest and best. Teeming with brilliance and humor, authentic at every turn, The House of Broken Angels cements his reputation as a storyteller of the first rank.

My Takeaway

“That is the prize: to realize, at the end, that every minute was worth fighting for with every ounce of blood and fire.”

The House of Broken Angels was a wonderfully written novel about a large Mexican-American family. The novel dealt with the family’s various triumphs and setbacks. Being a first-generation Dominican-American, and thanks to my mother, it has always been important for me to keep my Dominican traditions, culture, and sazón. The novel’s main character Big Angel is a complicated individual with an even more complicated life, but there is no question of his love for his familia. Big Angel is dying (not a spoiler) and trying to find peace during the last days of his life. The novel made me laugh, though there was one specific and heartfelt part where I became a bit emotional. The novel starts with a funeral and ends with a party. Believe it not, the entire story takes place over two days. This book was chosen for an Immigration Book Discussion, and the group had plenty to discuss. Without a doubt, Urrea is a magnificent storyteller — The House of Broken Angels had it all — love, sex, humor, secrets, and lies.

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