by Héctor Tobar

Reviewer Rating:
5

Review

     Araceli works in a home in one of Southern California’s elite gated communities, cleaning, cooking, and tending to the family.  She is alone in her work, as the other domestic employees were “let go” for the sake of reducing her employers’ bloated spending practices.  Araceli works alone, returning the chaos of the home to order, over and over again.  She neither ask for, nor expects much from her work. In her quiet time, she creates art out of household scraps and waste.

     When her employers get in a cataclysmic fight one night, Araceli pretends she does not hear the shouts; after all, their domestic issues are not her business.  However, their fight becomes nothing but her business when she discovers both parents have fled without notice, leaving her alone with two young boys.  Where did they go?  Why did they leave?  And what is Araceli to do?
Calling the police would open up many questions; Araceli fears deportation, or worse-what if they blame her for the parents’ disappearance?  Who can she turn to? And where on earth are the parents?  In an attempt to locate a relative, Araceli takes the children on a journey across Los Angeles, unsuspecting of the media and legal circus that is about to be unleashed.

     Héctor Tobar is a Pulitzer prizewinning author, and that level of mastery is certainly present in this story.  I honestly couldn’t put it down.  Told in alternating viewpoints-Araceli’s, the wife’s, the husband’s, even the childrens’, this book allows us to explore the intricacies of class, race, and the family from all perspectives.  You will come away from the story with a more thorough understanding of citizenship, the legal system, and the prejudices that permeate society.  And in spite of all the learning you’ll do with this book, it won’t leave you broken-hearted or hopeless about the state of the world. I can’t recommend it enough.

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