In The Tortilla Curtain, Mr. Boyle deftly portrays Los Angeles's Topanga Canyon, catching both its privileged society and its underlying geological and ecological instability. But while the book has heft, its story is slight, and not unfamiliar.... The Tortilla Curtain is a political novel for an age that has come to distrust not only politicians but political solutions, a modernist muckraking novel by an author who sees the muck not only in class structure and prejudice but in the souls of human beings. Yet where the socially engaged novel once offered critique, Mr. Boyle provides contempt.... [But] contempt is a dangerous emotion, luring us into believing that we understand more than we do.
Scott Spencer - New York Times Book Review
This highly engaging story subtly plays on our consciences, forcing us to form, confirm, or dispute social, political, and moral viewpoints. This is a profound and tragic tale, one that exposes not only a failed American Dream, but a failing America.
Janet St. John - Booklist
The inestimably gifted Boyle (The Road to Wellville, 1993, etc.) puts on a preacher's gown and mounts the pulpit to proclaim a hellfire sermon against bigotry and greed—in this rather wan updating of The Grapes of Wrath. If Boyle is to be believed, Los Angeles County has gradually evolved into a kind of minimum-security prison, with the prosperous Anglos living in fear of their lives behind the walls of their suburban security compounds. Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher moved as far from the city as they could, and settled in a tastefully "authentic" tract development just above Topanga Canyon. Au courant to a fault, Kyra brings home the bacon as a hot-shot real estate agent, while Delaney stands in as Mr. Mom—cooking their lowfat meals, seeing after their pets and their son, and writing a monthly column for a nature magazine. Below them, in the Canyon itself, Candido and America Ricon have crossed the Mexican border illegally and seek refuge of their own in the makeshift camp they've erected. Candido meets Delaney at the beginning of the story when Delaney runs him down with his car, and this pretty much establishes the tone of their relations throughout. Candido, as hapless as his namesake in Voltaire, wants only to work and look after his pregnant wife, but he's thwarted on every side by an exasperated white society with no room for him. Implausible circumstances keep bringing Delaney and Candido back to each other, and the tension that builds between them becomes an image of the ferocity that smolders within the city around them—exploding in an apocalyptic climax that combines a brushfire and a riot, with an earthquake thrown in for good measure. A morality play too obvious to be swallowed whole: Boyle's first real lemon so far.
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