Updated, 1:30 p.m., May 13

The eighth meeting of Moira’s Seattle Times Book Club took place earlier today, with a well-attended discussion of “The House of Broken Angels,” Luis Alberto Urrea’s novel of a Mexican American family gathering for a raucous party to celebrate their patriarch’s final birthday. Scroll down to the comments to read the entire discussion; here are a few excerpts from it:

What I like about this book is the incredible metaphors. They come primarily from Little Angel (who, I gather, is really the author). “He caught small flashes of family history like shreds of colored paper spinning in the wind.” And when he was stuck sitting between MaryLu and Paz: “Little Angel sat between them like a steer trapped in a branding pen, just waiting for the burning to be over.” And my favorite, by the character (I forget who) who is flirting with the blind girl: “He grabbed at a conversational life preserver that happened to drift across the open water of his mind.“– annkruse

I read the Kindle version, which also didn’t have a family tree. I went to look for one online and found an interview with Urrea saying he wanted people to feel like the characters were swirling around the reader (or something to that effect) and that is why he didn’t include a family tree in the hardcover. I decided to let myself feel the way Urrea intended and they all became familiar to me eventually. — pnledlund

“The Devil’s Highway” and “Into the Beautiful North” [both also by Urrea] are great companion pieces, both about crossing the border, the former a painful non-fiction account and the latter a light and uplifting novel. — Sue Ann

(Considering the novel side-by-side with our previous selection, “Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk“) That is a very interesting comparison. Lillian enjoyed interacting with strangers, at least in the late time of her life in this story. She also looked back on her life and all the amazing experiences. For Big Angel it was all about family (and Ookie). Lillian loved the City, the various landmarks institutions and memories, in addition to her son. Big Angel’s world revolved around family past and all seated around his yard during the party.user 788830

I enjoyed the author’s description of a perfect moment in Minerva’s day when the Mariachi band performed. It was so true and reminded me of a quote from “A Gentleman In Moscow: “Feeling that his moment, this hour, this universe could not be improved upon.”ncnykreim


In addition to appreciating so much his creative elements of magical realism (which I love), Urrea is such a great writer– his use of language and metaphor, and HUMOR. I laughed out loud over “Chiweenies” and at this wonderful image: “Her small flock of doggies was scuttling around like animated empanadas on meth.”Sherri Caldwell

From earlier:

Members of Moira’s Seattle Times Book Club have voted — and our next selection will be “The House of Broken Angels,” by Luis Alberto Urrea. The book, about a Mexican American family whose dying patriarch wants to gather the clan for one last blowout birthday party, was released in 2018. A Washington Post review at the time described it as “a big, sprawling, messy, sexy, raucous house party of a book, a pan-generational family saga with an enormous, bounding heart, a poetic delivery and plenty of swagger.”

Urrea, a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction (for “The Devil’s Highway,” an account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert), is the author of 17 books, including poetry, fiction and essays. He is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.

This will be the eighth book read by our online book club; most recently, we discussed “Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk” by Kathleen Rooney.

We will discuss the novel online at noon on Wednesday, May 13. To take part, all you need to do is read the book and join us online, here on this page; our discussion will take place in the comments section. (And, if you need to buy the book and want to support a local small business, here’s a list of indie bookstores still able to fulfill orders online during the current stay-at-home order.) 

If you’d like to join the Moira’s Book Club email list, contact Amy Wong at awong@seattletimes.com; if you’d like to join the Moira’s Book Club Facebook group (optional), see facebook.com/groups/stbooks/.

Happy reading!