The House of Broken Angels

Little, Brown. Mar. 2018. 336p. ISBN 9780316154888. $27; ebk. ISBN 9780316516259. F
In this aptly named family saga, patriarch Miguel Angel de la Cruz, or Big Angel, narrates his life story to himself in effort to resolve his past. The week after the death of his mother, Big Angel is determined to celebrate his last birthday in the wake of a cancer diagnosis. But he is haunted by childhood memories of La Paz, Mexico, along with the ghosts of two sons—one dead, one vanished—and a distant relationship with gringo half-brother Little Angel. Pulitzer Prize finalist Urrea (The Water Museum) masterfully crafts a portrait of a sprawling family living in different worlds: some are undocumented, others American citizens. As the celebration takes place in Southern California, family feuds and scandals are temporarily put on hold. Through Urrea's prose, the story of Big Angel comes to light: the emotional courtship of Perla, struggles to parent her sons Yndio and Braulio, and efforts to raise children Minnie and Lalo. Although the novel starts slowly, the birthday party delivers suspense and surprise. As in Urrea's previous books, every character and detail adds insight, especially Lalo's fears about living in his dad's shadow.
VERDICT Though fiction, Urrea's newest is an honest and moving portrayal of how families fall apart and come together during difficult times. [See Prepub Alert, 9/25/17.]
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