The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Doyle

I originally chose another novel for this semester’s independent reading. However, as the pages turned into chapters, I found that I was not very invested in the story. One day, I was reading the novel in my room when I glanced over at a stack of hand-me-down books from my sister. Laying on top of the stack was The Tortilla Curtain. Curious, I grabbed the book and began to read the first few pages. I continued reading until I realized that I had already read further in this new novel than the previous book that was scheduled for this blog. Quickly, I transferred my assignment and began focusing on The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle. The novel is set in modern-day Southern California. The story focuses on four main characters and tells the tale of immigration, racism, and the California wildlife.

Immediately, the reader is thrust into action as the novel begins with a car accident. The start of the novel entices the reader and lures them to read more. While many books slowly paint their beginnings with backstory and description, it was refreshing to see Boyle grabbing the reader and setting the mood for the book. The scene felt intense and the author quickly revealed an interesting conflict in the next few pages. However, after the first two chapters, the pace of the book declined as the backstory and description that Boyle initially evaded took over. While I was disappointed at the slower tempo, the placement of the action at the beginning had already hooked me and I continued to read; interested.

A recurring theme quickly emerged. The novel began to tackle the debate of immigration as the reader found themselves following two illegal immigrants, Cándido and Ámerica. The story follows the couple as they desperately cling to life; fighting their way towards the American Dream. The author evokes sympathy for the characters and expresses a seemly positive spin on illegal immigrants. However, Doyle also portrays many undocumented immigrants as thugs, rapists, and troublemakers. The author’s use of this contrast between the immigrants suggests that the situation around illegal immigration is not black and white, but rather many shades of gray.

In the first half of the novel, the author invests the reader in the characters, setting, and plot. T.C. Doyle has created a unique story that I enjoy and can not wait to finish.

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Doyle

  1. clarkjones1

    The Tortilla Curtain by T.C. Boyle tackles many controversial issues in America, mainly immigration. To portray this issue, the author uses contrast and perspective to demonstrate his views. The story follows four individuals. Two of which are illegal immigrants and the other two are wealthy Americans. The two immigrants constantly face life threatening challenges and struggle to survive. In contrast, the two Americans live luxurious lives with small, first world problems. By switching perspectives between the four, Boyle mocks the issues that upper class Americans face. He ridicules the wealthy by showing the desperation of the immigrants and the lack of assistance rich people provide. I enjoyed this method even though I felt that the points were exaggerated.

    T.C. Boyle’s novel portrayed an interesting plot that was easy to follow. He constantly weaved the lives of the illegal immigrants with the Americans to paint a tragicomedy of error and misunderstanding. While I enjoyed the storyline, I was surprise by the abruptness of the ending. The novel reaches a climax and ends on a sudden cliffhanger; forcing the reader to interpret the rest. While the end was a change of pace from other novels, I was left feeling incomplete and confused.

    The finish was not the only aspect of the book that failed to captivate me. The book faced a series of slow sections that seemed to drag on for chapters. By following four characters, there was a lot of backstory and flashbacks. I also found the climax to be short and unsatisfying. However, I did enjoy most of the book and would recommend it to mature readers. The novel did feature many adult scenes and tackled issues and tragedies that would not sit well with a younger audience. While I would not list The Tortilla Curtain on my list of top ten books, it is a good read that entertains for 355 pages.

  2. miacremona

    I am often very interested in books that tackle current world issues and I believe that literature is one of the best ways for one to truly understand the world around the, and furthermore, the contrasting coniditions of the people in a world far removed from our own.

    I enjoy your comment on characterization in addition to the idea of “extremes”, which is something that I feel can be highly beneficial to a story if used correctly. I am also quite intrigued by the way illegal immigration is portrayed in the novel, again through high contrast. That specific thematic topic may alone convince me to pick up the novel.

  3. nathanielfoster32

    This book sounds very intriguing because it involves modern day problems. Very rarely do you find a book that incorporates the reality of modern day, and action and thrill. Right now the debate on illegal immigrants is growing and tensions are rising. I think that reading this book could really alter some people’s perspectives of immigrants and change the way that we think as a society. This book is definitely on the top of my list, thank you!

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