The House of Broken Angels

The House of Broken Angels

From a Pulitzer Prize finalist comes a powerful and unforgettable portrait of one Mexican American family and the American dream.

“Epic . . . Rambunctious . . . Highly entertaining.” —New York Times Book Review

“A raucous, moving, and necessary book . . . Intimate and touching . . . the stuff of legend.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“Brilliant . . . Exceptional . . . The House of Broken Angels hums with joy.” –NPR

“An immensely charming and moving tale.” —Boston Globe

“A book about celebration that it, itself, a celebration.” —Washington Post

“All we do, mija, is love. Love is the answer. Nothing stops it. Not borders. Not death.”

In his final days, beloved and ailing patriarch Miguel Angel de La Cruz, affectionately called Big Angel, has summoned his entire clan for one last legendary birthday party. But as the party approaches, his mother, nearly one hundred, dies herself, leading to a farewell doubleheader in a single weekend. Among the guests is Big Angel’s half brother, known as Little Angel, who must reckon with the truth that although he shares a father with his siblings, he has not, as a half gringo, shared a life.

Across two bittersweet days in their San Diego neighborhood, the revelers mingle among the palm trees and cacti, celebrating the lives of Big Angel and his mother, and recounting the many inspiring tales that have passed into family lore, the acts both ordinary and heroic that brought these citizens to a fraught and sublime country and allowed them to flourish in the land they have come to call home.

The story of the de La Cruzes is the quintessential American story. This indelible portrait of a complex family reminds us of what it means to be the first generation and to live two lives across one border. It takes us into a world we have not known, while reflecting back the hopes and dreams of our own families. Teeming with brilliance and humor, authentic at every turn, The House of Broken Angels is Luis Alberto Urrea at his best, and cements his reputation as a storyteller of the first rank.

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Genre: Fiction / Fiction / Cultural Heritage

On Sale: March 6th 2018

Price: $27

Page Count: 336

ISBN-13: 9780316154888

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"Epic . . . Rambunctious . . . Highly entertaining . . . Sorrowful and funny . . . Cheerfully profane . . . The quips and jokes come fast through a poignant novel that is very much about time itself . . . Little Angel's loving and tormented relationship with Big Angel, the older brother who broke his nose in a fistfight but who wants him to crawl into his deathbed, is one of the many touching relationships rendered with grace and empathy by Urrea. Anger and sorrow are one pair of emotions that keeps surfacing throughout The House of Broken Angels. So do love and pain, joy and resentment, hatred and reconciliation, backstabbing and tenderness. All complicated, all compelling in Urrea's powerful rendering of a Mexican-American family that is also an American family. And what is Urrea's novel but a Mexican-American novel that is also an American novel? American in the broadest possible sense, from the United States of America, north of the border, to Mexico and by implication all of the other countries south of the border that are also American. The novel disrespects borders . . . Urrea is more concerned with expressing Little Angel's belief, as he observes the intricacies of his family, that 'if only the dominant culture could see these small moments, they would see their own human lives reflected in the other.' And the other that ultimately matters in this novel is death. Facing that last border that we all share and must cross, we can only hope to be like Big Angel, who 'invited every memory to come to him and clothe him in beauty.'"—Viet Thanh Nguyen, New York Times Book Review
"Urrea's gifts as a storyteller are prodigious. He writes with the looseness and confidence of Usain Bolt shaking out his limbs. He has an exceptional ability to swing from high language to low, to channel a character in less than a sentence...Reading Urrea feels like getting invited to a party. Come on, his prose says. You don't want to miss this...The book's spirit is irrepressibly high. Even in its saddest moments, The House of Broken Angels hums with joy...Most of all, The House of Broken Angels overflows with the pleasure of family. You wouldn't be wrong to take this book as a rebuttal to Tolstoy's happy-family dictum...Everyone is grieving, Big Angel most of all, and yet this is not a novel about grief. It's a novel about how amazing it is to have been alive. This is a family that knows how to be amazed, and how to conjure amazement...The vulnerability on display in this novel is what makes it exceptional. It radiates from every character on the page, and from the author, who based Big Angel on his own brother, Juan. And all that vulnerability, combined with humor and celebration and Urrea's vivid prose, will crack you open. At least while you're reading, this book will make you vulnerable, too."—Lily Meyer, NPR
"The House of Broken Angels is a big, sprawling, messy, sexy, raucous house party of a book, a pan-generational family saga with an enormous, bounding heart, a poetic delivery, and plenty of swagger...It stays with you, and it stands as a vital reminder of the value of fiction in defining the immigrant experience...The most technically impressive element of this spiraling group narrative is how the story rotates among the various family members, weaving their disparate voices, with effortless command, into a kind of Hispanic fugue of memory and desire. More than once while reading the novel, I thought of James Joyce's 'The Dead,' another kaleidoscopic fable of family life that skillfully mixes perspectives. I cannot remember a recent novel that was so energetically promiscuous in its embrace of the senses, one that brought forth such a riot of sounds and smells and tastes...Urrea's hand in conjuring this family is so sure, and his prose so joyful...The House of Broken Angels is a book about celebration that is, itself, a celebration."—Michael Lindgren, Washington Post
"Rambunctious...An immensely charming and moving tale...Urrea deftly inhabits many points of view, dreaming up an internal voice for each...It is a testament to his swift and lucid characterizations that one does not want to leave this party...The House of Broken Angels does not turn down the volume...From the love of marriages to the love of siblings, the novel shows that the only reason people fight over stories is they want to connect, to be loved...In a world that reduces human complexity to phrases like "anchor baby" or "in-migration," a novel like The House of Broken Angels is a radical act. It is a big, epic story about how hard it is to love with all of your heart, and all of your family--regardless of which side of the border they live on. After all, as this novel keenly reminds us, all of us will one day wind up on the other side."—John Freeman, Boston Globe
"The House of Broken Angels is a big, messy, warmhearted epic, over-flowing with color and character...With bird's eye agility, Urrea moves between borders and generations, alighting on buried secrets and half-finished anecdotes before breezing on to the next one and back again. His narrative is imbued with the timeless texture of every immigrant's hope's and dreams...Urrea's Angels carries all [of its moments]--good and ugly, broken and beautiful--without judgment, generous to the last breath."—Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
"Urrea spins some wonderful phrases as he leads us through his throng of characters...You couldn't ask for a more vivid sense of place either, whether you're talking physical surroundings or the way people think and speak. There's a telling moment when Little Angel ponders freeway traffic 'rushing past the invisible barrio, unaware of the lives up here, the little houses, all these unknowable stories.' The House of Broken Angels makes them known."—Michael Upchurch, Chicago Tribune
"The House of Broken Angels is a sprawling yet intimate tale of the de La Cruzes, a multigenerational Mexican-American family . . . Urrea's book, rich in detail and images, has much to say about the immigrant experience; about how language becomes both a barrier and a bond; and how a family defines home. But it's especially moving as an end-of-life portrait, as Big Angel tries to take in every detail of days that are slipping away. Every moment in his life, as he perches on its edge, seems to come rushing back to him in waves . . . It's the sort of book you might read, as I did, in one long, breathless push, like diving into a pool and being loathe to surface."—Moira Macdonald, Seattle Times
"Urrea's touch is sure, his exuberance carries you through...Everything is mined for a humor that rings raw and true...Urrea is a generous writer, not just in his approach to his craft--with sentences piling up in fat swaths of conversation, tall stories, tragedies, color--but in the broader sense of what he feels necessary to capture about life itself...It is one of the miracles of literature that you adopt families not your own, places that are alien to your experience, into your own memories. The de La Cruzes will feel to many readers like their own relatives: exasperating, dysfunctional, riven by loss, full of juice, and ultimately real."—Nilanjana Roy, Financial Times
"Generous and big-hearted...This novel hurtles forward with linguistic exuberance...Always ready to move over and make room for one more, The House of Broken Angels soars on wings of memory and imagination into the 'imperfect and glorious, messy and hilarious' tragedy and comedy of family history."—Diana Postlethwaite, Minneapolis Star-Tribune
"Bestselling novelist Urrea celebrates family as he digs deep into the small moments and big questions of life. 'Love is the answer,' he writes. 'Nothing stops it. Not borders. Not death.'"—Jane Ciabattari, BBC
"The story of the de La Cruzes is the quintessential American story...It takes us into a world we have not known, while reflecting back on the hopes and dreams of our own families."—Adam Morgan, Chicago Review of Books
"A raucous, moving, and necessary book...Intimate and touching...The stuff of legend...An amusingly accurate glimpse into the wackadoo, he-said-she-said nonsense that goes on in most tight-knit families...There's deep heart and tenderness in this novel...As the narrative jumps back and forth in time and place--from the past of La Paz and Tijuana, Mexico, to the suburbs of San Diego in the present--it's easy to see that despite all their antics, these characters really care for one another...The House of Broken Angels is, at its most political, a border story...The flashbacks detailing how each of the de La Cruzes arrived in America--and what they had to give up and endure while here--are not only chillingly accurate, they're heartbreaking (and infuriating)...It's vital that novels like The House of Broken Angels are written, published and widely read. Luckily, you're in the hands of a pro. Urrea has been at this a long time, and it shows."—Alexis Burling, San Francisco Chronicle
"Clamoring and joyful...A story of crossed borders: the U.S.-Mexico border, of course, across which the family immigrated years ago, but also the borders between versions of history and between life and death...Urrea's affection for his characters is contagious, and the reader feels as though she's been welcomed to the party...Big Angel proves himself courageous in the face of death. But above all, he is courageous in his love, and the novel is beautifully unapologetic in this affirmation...A brimming, expansive novel."—Kirstin Valdez Quade, Newsday
"This brilliant (truly, like a multi-faceted gem) novel is intimate in its revelations of one beautifully complicated family, but epic in the way in which it portrays a myriad of human experiences...A novel that is explosive and empathetic, and a much-needed depiction of what life is like for this very American family, as it straddles different worlds and ways of being."—Kristen Iversen, Nylon
"The kind of sweeping family saga you lose yourself in--big and warm, and rich with history and love and culture."
Samantha Irby, Marie Claire
"Luis Alberto Urrea's new novel is an unforgettable family epic, a sweeping story that takes place over one weekend in San Diego in which a family unspools stories--legendary, mythic, and utterly entertaining--that have been passed down to them and which bring to life a vivid rendering of the Mexican-American immigrant experience in America."—Caroline Rogers, Southern Living
"This humane and often-laugh-out-loud hilarious novel is a first-generation family saga interweaving myth, mourning, revelry, and the desire for immortality."—O Magazine
"The House of Broken Angels is a love song to the Mexican-American family."—Time
"Unfailingly personal and deeply poignant...a deft celebration of the Mexican-American family."—Harper's Bazaar
"A whirling fiesta of a book...Filled with intelligence and wickedly funny cultural commentary, the story builds to an electrifying finale."—People
"The Mexican American poet and storyteller weaves another great yarn."—John Timpane, The Philadelphia Inquirer
"A novel about humanity and all its marvelous mess...The House of Broken Angels succeeds in its depiction of the pettiness and love that so peculiarly intertwine in families.In particular, the relationship between Big Angel and Little Angel is loving and fraught, heightened by the sense that they must get it all out in the open with too little time. Urrea has clearly written from the heart...His novel is an intimate tribute to the bonds we don't get to choose, but to which we owe everything."—Grace Parazzoli, Santa Fe New Mexican
"What Urrea achieves in this sprawling and sensual novel is remarkable. Every paragraph holds its own; but together they tell the whole messy story of a family that, at its essence, mirrors your own."—Sarah Bagby, KMUW
"Engrossing and indispensable...This is a tender, passionate, loving and violent book, just like la familia...They have their squabbles and secrets, their grudges and crushes, their rivalries and resentments. But for every moment of sorrow, there are two moments of joy; for every fear, a glimmer of potential...This sincere family epic should be read all over our land of immigrants."—Cory Oldweiler, amNewYork
"Luis Alberto Urrea's The House of Broken Angels is a vivid portrait of one Mexican-American family in San Diego and the complexities of immigration and heritage. The patriarch of the De La Cruz family decides to throw a huge birthday party in the last days of his life, but his mother also dies in the days leading up to the event, leading to a bittersweet celebration of both of their lives and their family's legacy."—Jarry Lee, Buzzfeed
"A fascinating look at culture, family, and the roots that ground us to one another; Luis Alberto Urrea's The House of Broken Angels may be set around a 100-year-old's birthday party, but it reaches into every area of modern American life."—PopSugar
"Urrea dives head-first into the hearts and minds of some truly unforgettable characters. If you love a book that draws you in with masterful language and deep understanding of the human spirit, you're certainly in luck."—Melissa Ragsdale, Bustle
"Boisterous . . . Fun . . . Although underscored by tragedy and strife, this novel is a story of hope and love-for all broken angels."—Yvette Benavides, San Antonio Express-News
"The House of Broken Angels will appeal to anybody...A tender, sprawling, funny, violent family saga."—David Steinberg, Albuquerque Journal
"Luis Alberto Urrea has crafted a story that is teeming with family love, secrets, jealousies, alliances, and surprises that make it burst with life on every page. He uses a large cast of characters to portray the breadth of the de La Cruz clan and also make them universal. Change the names, locations, language, and in-jokes, and they could be Italian, Jewish, Irish, or any other group of immigrants that has struggled to combine elements of their original home with their new one . . . The House of Broken Angels can be a multigenerational, multinational dwelling anywhere. Get a copy for your house."—Dale Singer, St. Louis Post-Dispatch
"A beautiful and heartbreaking family story."—HelloGiggles
"A big-hearted family epic that radiates with the joy of telling stories...The vibe of the novel isn't an elegy for the end of a clan that's lost its sense of identity, but a tribute to a family that has acquired the freedom to make multiple identities for itself...For a novel about death, there's a lot of life in it."—Mark Athitakis, Barnes & Noble Book Review
"This, the most personal book by the great American novelist Luis Alberto Urrea, is one of the most vivid and engrossing family epics of the last twenty years."
Dave Eggers, National Book Award finalist and New York Times bestselling author of The Circle
"Luis Urrea is a mythmaker with the heart of a poet. He is that paradox, a gentle, kind writer who can hurt you deeply with honesty and beauty. I'm glad we have him."—Neil Gaiman, New York Times bestselling author of The Ocean at the End of the Lane
"The House of Broken Angels has everything we demand of a great novel--sweep, ambition, generosity, myth, intimacy, and, above all, humanity. Luis Alberto Urrea just gets better and better."—Richard Russo, Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Everybody's Fool
"Luis Alberto Urrea is a master storyteller, and he delivers a masterwork with The House of Broken Angels. Stories spin on stories. There are lives intimately depicted and fully realized; losses redeemed by love; a dazzling display of narrative fireworks, each little scene a gem; and larger-than-life characters across two borders who cross all borders and become ours. We enter this house of broken angels, and through the magical power of Urrea's writing, we become healed and whole. And we laugh and tear up and shake our heads in wonder all the way to the ending of a book we don't want to end. Urrea delivers on every page. ¡Dios santo! What a storyteller! Bless his capacious heart!"—Julia Alvarez, author of How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
"Dizzying...Urrea writes in exhilarating but controlled slashes, wielding a machete that cuts like a scalpel. Every page comes alive with scent, taste, and, perhaps most lovingly, touch...The House of Broken Angels is about a quintessentially American family, a family that came north looking for heaven but found that 'heaven was a blueprint.' But it's also about what it means to look back on a life and, with total honesty, take stock."—Omar El Akkad, Bookpage
"Exuberant...Urrea has written a vital, vibrant book about the immigrant experience that is a messy celebration of life's common joys and sorrows."—Publishers Weekly
"A family saga that asks what it means to be American . . . The novel 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 and 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 . . . Even in death, Urrea shows, we never lose our connection to one another, which is the point of this deft and moving book."—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
"A warmly hilarious novel. . . . Rollicking chaos, masterful storytelling and deep affection for its countless characters."—Colette Bancroft, Tampa Bay Times
"Luis Alberto Urrea is one of America's foremost chroniclers of the messy, swirling, often embarrassing chaos that we politely call 'family.'...The House of Broken Angels [is] a dizzying, powerful book that wraps its arms around all the emotion and chaos of a large family."—Kirkus
"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."—Booklist
"Urrea masterfully crafts a portrait of a sprawling family living in different worlds...His newest is an honest and moving portrayal of how families fall apart and come together during difficult times."—Stephanie Sendaula, Library Journal
"Richly rendered and emotionally satisfying...Urrea's immense literary imagination never ceases to work wonders. In The House of Broken Angels, his style of magical realism creates an unforgettable alchemy, transforming the struggles of a multigenerational Latinx family into a moving mythos of kinship...Extraordinary."—Shelf Awareness