The Tortilla Curtain by TC Boyle
I have never read anything by T.C. Boyle but this 20 year-old-book recently found its way into my library. With themes of “Wall-Building”, “Illegal Immigration”, “Racism” and “Chasing the American Dream” (among others) we follow the story of two California couples as they try to come to terms with their lives. The first is Delaney Mossbacher and his wife Kyra who are white upper middle class suburbanites unsuccessfully trying to escape a world filled with illegal Mexican immigrants. In the beginning of the book, Mossbacher is in his fancy Acura when he hits one of the illegals, Candino Rincon. Candino lives in Topanga Canyon camping out with his pregnant wife America just trying to survive and not be caught by authorities. Condone is gravely injured by the car but not wanting to be caught, he take the $20 offered to him by Delaney and goes back into the canyon. This is the first and only direct interaction between the two until the last scene of the book.
Boyle moves between the two couples as he follows their daily lives and their respective struggles chasing the American dream. For the Rincon’s, this is the quest to eat and get enough work to move to a real apartment while facing the threats of racism, environment and deportation. For the Mossbachers, it is continually looking to improve their economic status while trying to be as far away from the illegal Mexican community as possible.
Boyle has written many beautiful passages along the way and his story is as relevant today as it was 20 years ago if not more so. In this political climate, where we have Presidential candidates advocating building walls along the Mexican border, the wall building that Mossbacher’s development undertakes to keep out the Mexicans is particularly poignant. With all the discussion around immigration in this political campaign, Tortilla Curtain is an important read. It has no answers but certainly provides a variety of perspectives. This isn’t the best book I’ve ever read but it could not be more relevant. I’m really glad I found it.