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Tobar’s breakthrough 2011 novel presents a nuanced and moving look at a mixed-race family in Orange County as they confront the implications of race and class. The book deftly integrates a trio of perspectives: those of Scott and Maureen Torres-Thompson—self-made, upper middle class, and battered by the Great Recession—and their Mexican live-in maid, Araceli. Scott has Mexican roots himself (he is the Torres of the hyphenated last name), although he’s turned his back on them. Then, a fight between him and Maureen leaves Araceli to look after two of the couple’s children, with devastating effects. The result is a novel that digs deep into the racial, economic, and cultural divides of Southern California, exploring a domestic landscape in which everyone seems alienated from everyone else and no one can say, exactly, who they are.


Picador USA
THE BARBARIAN NURSERIES, BY HÉCTOR TOBAR
Picador USA Bookshop.org
$19.00

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