The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle

May 18, 2012

Published in 1995, The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle is still as timely today in its exploration of the dilemmas of illegal immigration.  Boyle does not judge, does not side, he merely presents his story -- the sad reality of people trying to achieve the American dream.  Set in Los Angeles, on one side are the Mexican illegal aliens struggling with poverty and dehumanization, yet holding on to the hope of a better life, while on the other are the California residents caught in a cycle of fear, mistrust and the need to protect their achievement.  Cándido and his wife, pregnant América, are living in a ravine in Topanga Canyon.  They literally have nothing but the clothes on their back and the hope everyday to be picked up as day-laborers from the pick-up lot. While driving down the canyon road, wealthy nature writer Delaney Mossbacher hits Cándido. How each recovers, Cándido physically and Delaney emotionally, sets the stage for the saga which plays out in this sad tale.   Delaney is at first terribly upset, wanting to help him, not knowing what to do, as the injured Cándido stumbles back into the brush with the $20 bill Delaney thrusts at him.   But each one retreats to their safe spot and deals with their hurt within the niche each has created around themselves to survive.  Beautifully written, this compelling novel, with issues that lend to discussion, would be an excellent book club pick.

Reviewed by Library Staff