By Amanda Merriman
Connection writer Amanda Merriman admits she is hopelessly addicted to books. It has been this way nearly all her life. Every month she shares what she has been reading with the hope that others will share in the obsession too.
Luis Alberto Urrea’s novel The House of Broken Angels was February’s pick for my local book club. Running short on time, and with an Audible credit burning a hole in my virtual wallet, I chose to listen to this one. I am so glad I did.
Urrea narrated the Audible version, which adds to the experience. I feel like this provides a secret window into the story, allowing the listener to hear it with the tone and emphasis the author intended. As I listened to the richly textured story unfold, it seemed more like consuming a stew of emotions rather than a book.
The House of Broken Angels introduces readers to the de la Cruz family during a weekend of two major family events. The first event is the funeral of the nearly 100-year-old, Mama America. The second is a birthday party for her 70-year-old son and family patriarch, Big Angel. Big Angel is dying of cancer, just a shell of the man he physically once was. His family doesn’t know it, but the party serves as a living funeral of sorts.
The de la Cruz family is large, colorful, and like a lot of families, full of complicated history. Urrea carefully brings each family member to life. The different storylines switch between the past and present. Don’t let this intimidate you though. Grab a notepad and make a family tree, or go about it as I did, like a new family member needing to pay attention to get to know the people.
Through Urrea’s novel, readers get the full picture of the Mexican American immigrant experience. His work reminds us of the shared human experience. At times, it can be awkward, frightening, and challenging. But all in all, if we are fortunate, it is also woven with love, hope and forgiveness. If we are really lucky, we will have the opportunity to review our life and reconnect with those dear to us before our passing. The House of Broken Angels may seem a little heavy or serious. However, among the heavy parts, Urrea gives these topics some levity with a good dose of humor. There were a few parts that had me laughing out loud. Readers who stick with the story, despite the large web of characters will reap the rewards of a book that delivers all the feels.
Fellow bibliophiles and book club members, feel free to join in the dialogue. Blog your thoughts and feedback at www.castlepinesconnection.com and enter the keyword “bibliophiliac” in the search bar. Have you read a great book recently? Don’t keep that juicy tidbit all to yourself. Email your find to me at firstname.lastname@example.org.