The Barbarian Nurseries

The Barbarian Nurseries

Book - 2011
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A "New York Times" Notable Book for 2011 A "Boston Globe "Best Fiction Book of 2011 The great panoramic social novel that Los Angeles deserves--a twenty-first century, West Coast "Bonfire of the Vanities "by the only writer qualified to capture the city in all its glory and complexity
With "The Barbarian Nurseries, "Hector Tobar gives our most misunderstood metropolis its great contemporary novel, taking us beyond the glimmer of Hollywood and deeper than camera-ready crime stories to reveal Southern California life as it really is, across its vast, sunshiny sprawl of classes, languages, dreams, and ambitions.
Araceli is the live-in maid in the Torres-Thompson household--one of three Mexican employees in a Spanish-style house with lovely views of the Pacific. She has been responsible strictly for the cooking and cleaning, but the recession has hit, and suddenly Araceli is the last Mexican standing--unless you count Scott Torres, though you'd never suspect he was half Mexican but for his last name and an old family photo with central L.A. in the background. The financial pressure is causing the kind of fights that even Araceli knows the children shouldn't hear, and then one morning, after a particularly dramatic fight, Araceli wakes to an empty house--except for the two Torres-Thompson boys, little aliens she's never had to interact with before. Their parents are unreachable, and the only family member she knows of is Senor Torres, the subject of that old family photo. So she does the only thing she can think of and heads to the bus stop to seek out their grandfather. It will be an adventure, she tells the boys. If she only knew . . .
With a precise eye for the telling detail and an unerring way with character, soaring brilliantly and seamlessly among a panorama of viewpoints, Tobar calls on all of his experience--as a novelist, a father, a journalist, a son of Guatemalan immigrants, and a native Angeleno--to deliver a novel as broad, as essential, as alive as the city itself.
Publisher: Toronto : HarperCollins Canada, 2011
ISBN: 9781443407090
Branch Call Number: TOB
Characteristics: 422 p. ;,24 cm


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ChristchurchLib Apr 21, 2014

"Scott and Maureen Torres-Thompson live with their two children in a fancy Orange County home, though financial troubles exacerbated by Maureen's wild spending on a garden renovation have forced them to let go of much of their staff. Araceli, the undocumented housekeeper, must now care for the kids. But when both mum and dad disappear for days (taking "breaks" they neglect to tell each other or Araceli about), Araceli attempts to do the right thing by bringing the kids to their grandfather, who lives somewhere in L.A. When Scott and Maureen return to an empty house, they panic and call the cops, provoking a media circus that assumes the Mexican housekeeper has kidnapped the kids. Readers interested in social issues and the disconnect between wealthy Americans and the workers they hire will not want to miss The Barbarian Nurseries." Fiction A to Z April 2014 newsletter

Nov 01, 2013

This book was a recommendation from a coworker. I loved the imagery and cultural richness of modern LA. Araceli is a very unlikely but perfect protagonist. I enjoyed how the vision of the city and the characters changed as the point of view of the book changed. A great book to have a conversation about. Book club fodder!

retiredbubby Jun 25, 2012

Mr. Tobar went off on tangets quite often. I found that this got me off course. This didn't allow me to keep my mind focused and connected. There are many sentences in Spanish. There is no way of figuring out the meaning of these sentences. When writing for an English speaking audience either write in English or include the translation.

Feb 23, 2012

Similar themes to "The Help", but concerning current affairs and more credible.

M_Henderson Jan 29, 2012

Outstanding, timely, engaging book. The characters live and breathe -- I cared about them, even the ones I didn't like so much (well, except for the district attorney...didn't care for/about him! <grin>)

Jan 20, 2012

This enjoyable novel is a gently told drama about social classes and struggles between them in LA today. I found most effective the initial set up and especially the presentation of the unlikely (& very attractive, because of this) protagonist, Araceli. But I also really liked the humor and charm associated with the 2 pre-teen boys: their commentary, their insights, and their attitudes. Perhaps because of their ages, the latter are all full of honesty and that gives all hope for the future. The title might imply harshness. Be ensured, it’s not that. Even the villains are relatively harmless in this saga.

Nann Dec 07, 2011

Scott and Maureen Torres-Thompson are living beyond their means in a gated community. They have a big argument and separately leave home--each thinking that the other stayed behind with their two sons (11 and 9). The only adult in the house is Araceli, the Mexican housekeeper (who is an illiegal resident). With no food, little cash, and no way to contact the parents, Araceli decides to take the boys to find their grandfather in south central LA -- a whole new world to the boys. Meanwhile the parents arrive home and think the boys have been kidnapped. A manhunt ensues, there is an arrest, an investigation, and a release. Tobar handles multiple points of view deftly. This is an insightful commentary on contemporary society.

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