Friday, January 6, 2012

The Barbarian Nurseries by Hector Tobar

Starting as it does in the gorgeous Californian home of the Torres-Thompson family and their maid Araceli, we are introduced to a Scott and Maureen whose seemingly perfect life is disintegrating around them, from 3 domestics to 1, to parties that rather than catered by societies finest service providers are the handiwork of Maureen and Araceli..put bluntly they are going broke and appearances can`t be kept up.
We then once the setting is laid before us, are taken on a journey that fairly dazzles, secrets and lies, anger and frustration bubble away and as the reality of their situation dawns upon them, Scott and Maureen themselves begin to fall apart, only grumpy, uncommunicative Araceli working like a demon holds things together and provides any real sense of stability for the Torres-Thompson offspring although it is done with much grumbling on her part and a longing for the expressive Gardener Pepe to return, alas and alack he isn`t going to, they can`t afford him any longer but low and behold a Cactus Garden does arrive and with its spines and prickles comes an argument that changes the lives of all involved and takes us deep into the reality of the Illegal Mexican Immigrant.
Scott and Maureen take time out but communication not being good, no one tells Araceli, she is unable to reach either parent and in desperation she takes Keenan and Brandon on a journey across Los Angeles in hopes of finding their rather absent but part Mexican Grandfather with whom she imagines she can leave the boys. It is a journey that encompasses everything that these boys have never seen or heard of, they meet people and visit places that would horrify their socially correct parents...and they are fascinated, stimulated and reinvigorated as only children with receptive minds can be, not a moment is wasted.
Realising that finding Grandpa isn`t going to happen Araceli concludes that she will have to find away home for the boys but before she can do so, Scott and Maureen independently return and becoming aware that neither actually has the children and Araceli and the boys are gone dial 911 which leads us into the next part of our journey one peppered with Police, Politicians, Media and the consequences of lying.
The writing is vivid, the characters and places painted so real that you feel as if you know them, the characters are finally wrought, dimensions are added,the story zigs and zags but never becomes lost, we learn that prejudice and racial inequality are powerful tools for good and bad, that stereotypes do exist but half a picture doesn`t make a whole. Motivation is powerful be it for good or bad, kindness does exist, the media as most of us imagine does play an awfully powerful role in shaping what we think and believe and it is swift to change sides. And when it all comes to a close, good has trumped bad and life with its myriad of choices can reach out to all of us.
This was a type of book that is quite hard to categorise because it encompasses so many issues. I would have to say in conclusion that it does it very well indeed, it draws you in, then tips you up,opens your mind, takes you on a fantastical journey and teaches you a few lesson while never becoming boring or dull and it has you from first to last page. I bought my copy from Dymocks in Newmarket.

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