on March 6th 2018
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“The entire history of his family, the world itself, the solar system and galaxy, swirled around him now in weird silence, and he felt blood dribbled down inside his body and the clock, the clock, chipped away at his existence.”
Big Angel (Miguel Angel De La Cruz) has invited his family to his home in San Diego to celebrate his last birthday. His Mother passes away a few days before his birthday, so the family has her funeral one day and his birthday party the next. Two very different farewells for this dynamic family who gather together in celebration of life, to say goodbye, and to tell their favorite family stories and bare their souls.
“Big Angel stood in the shadows of the living room, buffeted by stories of the past, things he remembered and thing he had learned. Or maybe thing he had dreamed. He could no longer tell the difference. The stories flew in like wind through an open window and whirled around him. He could feel them almost pull him off his feet. They seemed to come by their own volition, leaping over years, ignoring the decades. Big Angel found himself in a time storm.”
The writing in this book was quite beautiful. This book is sweet, it’s funny, it’s sad, it’s dramatic and gives us a glimpse into the lives of this first generation Mexican-American family living across but near the border. The family is full of interesting characters and has interesting family dynamics (which family doesn’t?). Through their interactions and conversations, the reader learns their personalities, thoughts, emotions and fears. Big Angel and his brother, Little Angle have great conversations full of sarcasm and wit which they use to sugarcoat their pain and love for each other.
“I know you hated me for leaving. I know you thought I looked down on all of you. Well, maybe I did. All my life I thought of you. All my life I thought I had to escape to survive. Maybe even to escape you. And now you are leaving me, and I can’t imagine the world without you. I always thought I didn’t really have the father I wanted. And all this time it was you. To be here now, to see what you have made, humbles me. The good parts and the bad. It doesn’t matter. I thought I was going to save the world, and here you were all along, changing the world day by day, minute by minute.”
Like most family gatherings, there is laughter, tears, music, food, dancing, and people. There are some Spanish words through in here which make the book feel more authentic. Even if you do not speak Spanish, I think most of the words are self-explanatory due to the English which is said both before and after the word. Initially I gave this book 4 stars but moved it up to 4.5 due to the writing being so wonderful. The beginning of this book started off with a bang and then the Author does a step back and takes us back in time to when Big Angel met his wife. This was a little bit of a rough transition for me for many reasons: I wanted to keep the present-day story going because I was enjoying it so much and because it interrupted the flow of the story. I liken this to when you are walking behind someone and they suddenly stop fast for no reason and you almost run into them. This is what the transition felt like to me. Otherwise, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was my first book by Urrea and I am certain I will be reading more of his books in the future.
Thank you to Little Brown and Company and NetGalley who provided me with a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.