I usually don’t yelp about about a book until I have finished it. That said, I have to bring to your attention Héctor Tobar’s latest novel, The Barbarian Nurseries, which might very well be the next great American novel. A Mexican maid, out of her wit’s end after her patrones quit the house following a verbal agreement turned physically violent, was left with two boys under her care. Between a misunderstanding, she takes them to central Los Angeles from their pampered bubble of Orange County in the hopes of finding the husband’s estranged Mexican father. They head northward, “to a distant land called Los Angeles.”
This book kept me riveted over the weekend as we took a road trip down the central coast of California. The powerful scope of the novel, which addresses the the issues of social inclusion and redemption (satire intended?). The Barbarian Nurseries is a very human book about how none of us really know one another, about how our personal stories are always misunderstood, about the fragile yet sacrosanct chalice that is family, about the dream of freedom. It doesn’t take long to realize who in the book is the titular barbarian. I’m only halfway, at the cliffhanger point where the tantrum-throwing couple, after their feat-of-a-pique retreat, finally returns home and finds their house empty, calls the police and accuses Araceli of kidnapping. The truth of what happened is already disappearing beneath layers of invention to prevent exposure of their fight.
Now I dread what is to befall Araceli, who will have to tell her side of the story. I can feel the building up of tension and the power top be unleashed by this novel. Do yourself a favor, get this book for the holidays and be intrigued by Tobar’s literary power. Full review will be posted soon.