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.