Reviews for The House of Broken Angels

by Luis Alberto Urrea

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

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.]--Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Copyright © Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

A family saga that asks what it means to be American.Urrea (The Water Museum, 2015, etc.) tells the story of Miguel Angel de la Cruz, or Big Angel, who must bury his mother as he himself is dying. Before his death, though, he means to celebrate one last birthday. "He wanted a birthday, pues. A last birthday," Angel's sister explains, and from that simple statement, the entire book unfolds. Urrea is an accomplished writer of fiction and nonfiction; his novel The Hummingbird's Daughter was inspired by his great-aunt, the Mexican mystic Teresita Urrea, and The Devils' Highway: A True Story, which recounts a catastrophic border crossing, was a finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize. Here, he returns to his family as source, modeling Big Angel, or at least his circumstance, on his oldest brother, who died a month after their mother's funeral. The result is a novel that is knowing and intimate, funny and tragic at once. The de la Cruzes are a big clan, messy and complex. The members have competing agendas, secrets, but at the same time, all share a commitment to family. "All we do, mija," Big Angel tells his daughter, "is love. Love is the answer. Nothing stops it. Not borders. Not death." It's impossible to read that line (or, for that matter, this novel) without reflecting on the current American moment, in which Mexican-American families such as the de la Cruzes are often vilified. But if Urrea's novel is anything, it is an American tale. It is a celebration, although Urrea is no sentimentalist; he knows the territory in which his narrative unfolds. There is tragedy here and danger; these are real people, living in the real world. Still, even when that world intrudes, it only heightens the strength, the resilience, of the family. "He thought he was still alive to make his amends," Urrea writes of Big Angel. "He thought he was alive to try one last hour to unite his family. But now he knewhe was alive to save his boy's life. His youngest son."Even in death, Urrea shows, we never lose our connection to one another, which is the point of this deft and moving book. Copyright Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Library Journal
(c) Copyright Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Despite the title, the Angels here are more damaged than broken, with even a promise of salvation-more than less-by title's end. Narrated by Urrea (The Water Museum), who has magnificently recorded most of his audio adaptations, this House comes to life across borders, generations, genders, and ages. The matriarch of the sprawling de la Cruz family is dead just as her eldest son, Miguel Angel-known as "Big Angel"-is about to celebrate a farewell birthday blowout before he succumbs to terminal cancer. Over the funeral/party double-header weekend, the extended clan gather in San Diego to eulogize and revel in the decades spent as family and strangers, as loved ones and pariahs. Amidst siblings, children, in-laws, nieces, nephews, spouses, and exes arrives Big Angel's half-brother, Seattle English professor Gabriel Angel. Armed with a notebook to keep track of who's who, Little Angel will finally figure out his rightful place. VERDICT Urrea's outstanding ability to individualize his extensive cast adds yet another enhancing layer to his already spectacular novel. ["An honest and moving portrayal of how families fall apart and come together during difficult times": LJ 2/1/18 review of the Little, Brown hc.]-Terry Hong, Smithsonian BookDragon, Washington, DC © Copyright 2018. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Publishers Weekly
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

In Urrea's exuberant new novel of Mexican-American life, 70-year-old patriarch Big Angel de la Cruz is dying, and he wants to have one last birthday blowout. Unfortunately, his 100-year-old mother, America, dies the week of his party, so funeral and birthday are celebrated one day apart. The entire contentious, riotous de la Cruz clan descends on San Diego for the events-"High rollers and college students, prison veternaos and welfare mothers, happy kids and sad old-timers and pinches gringos and all available relatives." Not to mention figurative ghosts of the departed and an unexpected guest with a gun. Taking place over the course of two days, with time out for an extended flashback to Big Angel's journey from La Paz to San Diego in the 1960s, the narrative follows Big Angel and his extended familia as they air old grievances, initiate new romances, and try to put their relationships in perspective. Of the large cast, standouts include Perla, Big Angel's wife, the object of his undimmed affection; Little Angel, his half-Anglo half-brother, who strains to remain aloof; and Lalo, his son, trailing a lifetime of bad decisions. Urrea (The Hummingbird's Daughter) has written a vital, vibrant book about the immigrant experience that is a messy celebration of life's common joys and sorrows. Agent: Sandra Dijkstra, Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency. (Mar.) © Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

In his latest novel, Urrea (The Water Museum, 2015) revisits themes of borderland life, Southern California culture, and the immigrant experience through the expansive family of Miguel Angel de la Cruz, a patriarch slowly succumbing to illness. Over the course of a single weekend in San Diego, Big Angel's relatives from every extended branch of the family tree gather to celebrate his life in a final send-off, a living funeral, everything planned just the way he wants it, when suddenly his centenarian mother upstages her son by dying first. The family switches gears to accommodate this dual mourning, and Urrea pulls readers into Big Angel's complex relationships with wife, Perla, and with their children, Minnie, Lalo, and the eldest, gender-nonconforming outcast Yndio. Painful memories bubble to the surface, especially surrounding the death of one son, Braulio, as well as the legacy of Big Angel's father, Antonio, who haunts him. Urrea once again captures the anxieties and joys of a family balanced on the borders between generations, El Norte and Mexico, and life and death. A quintessentially American story.--BŠez, Diego Copyright 2018 Booklist