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Original Essays | September 17, 2014

Merritt Tierce: IMG Has My Husband Read It?

My first novel, Love Me Back, was published on September 16. Writing the book took seven years, and along the way three chapters were published in... Continue »
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The Barbarian Nurseries


The Barbarian Nurseries Cover

ISBN13: 9780374108991
ISBN10: 0374108994
Condition: Standard
Dustjacket: Standard
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Average customer rating based on 6 comments:

JPC, March 20, 2013 (view all comments by JPC)
A wonderfully written novel that captures the vast cultural differences and similaries of modern life in southern California. Hector Tobar gives readers a peak into into the lives of various people and makes each one relateable. Readers will learn something while also empathizing with the characters.
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Nancy L, January 22, 2013 (view all comments by Nancy L)
Contemporary fiction at its finest. The Barbarian Nurseries depicts one family's marital struggles as they live the American dream and cope with their relationship, parenting, and present-day financial insecurity in L.A. The story has a strong sense of place, but it's not set in the L.A. of movie stars and Disneyland. It's the L.A. where families really live.

Both parents separately decide to take a temporary break, and leave without telling each other, or their maid Araceli, an illegal immigrant from Mexico. As a bewildered Araceli makes one uninformed, but thoughtful decision after another during the parent's absence; the story becomes a real page-turner. I could not put it down until I found out what happened to the kids, and to the parents when they realized what they'd done, and to Araceli once her ordeal was over.
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Lindsay Waite, October 1, 2012 (view all comments by Lindsay Waite)
In many ways, two worlds co-exist when families hire maids (live in or otherwise), gardeners, childcare workers, and others of Latin American origin. There can be intimate involvement with live in "help" since the workers live side by side with their employers. Yet, there is a gulf between the lives of the two groups of people. Héctor Tobar's wonderful novel shows us both points of view.

Araceli and the sons of Scott and Maureen are unknowingly caught in a predicament caused by Scott and Maureen's marital strife. Araceli does the only thing that makes sense, trying to find a safe place for the boys. Cultural differences and cultural norms (where those who hire staff keep them at arm's length) result in an unfair predicament for Araceli.

Life in Los Angeles and the responsibility for others' children are filtered through Araceli's intelligent eyes. How the boys, Keenan and Brandon, interpret Los Angeles and the surrounds is also insightful. Ultimately, postponed dreams become more realized as the story concludes, and there is a sense of optimism.

Tobar effectively expresses the unique voices of all the characters, and I was sorry that the story ended. I plan to read more of his works very soon! He is a brilliant writer.
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Elizabeth Bolton, August 4, 2012 (view all comments by Elizabeth Bolton)
Hector Tobar takes on the subject of illegal aliens working for Americans in their homes. In the Barbarian Nurseries a family of about-to-lose-it-all dot-commers must face up to their short-comings when the parents each "escape" separately from the pressures of their lives, unknowingly leaving their young sons in charge of their Mexican housekeeper, who tries to deliver them to their grandfather. The ensuing events show us how flawed our immigration policies are and how greed, entitlement, and guilt work together to help us justify ugly behavior toward our fellow humans. An excellent, well-paced story.
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Rachel White, May 30, 2012 (view all comments by Rachel White)
I was afraid I had become too cynical a reader to enjoy fiction anymore. This book restored my faith in fiction and in just about everything else. It's one of those reading experiences that makes you feel like you've emerged from a cocoon. Hector Tobar is my new hero. Absolutely amazing.
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(1 of 1 readers found this comment helpful)
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Product Details

A Novel
Tobar, Hector
Urban Life
Literature-A to Z
Hispanic & Latino
Edition Description:
Trade paper
Publication Date:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
9 x 6 in

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The Barbarian Nurseries Used Hardcover
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$10.95 In Stock
Product details 432 pages Picador - English 9780374108991 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Tobar (The Tattooed Soldier) delivers a riveting, insightful morality tale of conspicuously consuming Americans and their Mexican servants in the O.C. When Maureen's failing tropical garden becomes a source of embarrassment, she charges its four-figure replacement, pushing her and software engineer husband Scott's already-tottering finances over the edge. A fight ensues, with Maureen crashing through a glass coffee table, and she flees with baby Samantha while Scott opts to repair his ego with another woman and by 'taking a little break from being home,' leaving their Mexican maid, Araceli, to care for their two young boys. The situation turns explosive when Araceli tries to ferry the boys to their grandfather, only to spark a full-blown Los Angeles media circus. Tobar is both inventive and relentless in pricking the pretentious social consciences of his entitled Americans, though he also casts a sober look on the foibles of the Mexicans who serve them. His sharp eye for Southern California culture, spiraling plot twists, ecological awareness, and ample willingness to dole out come-uppance to the nauseatingly privileged may put readers in mind of T.C. Boyle." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
"Review" by , "The Barbarian Nurseries is a book of extraordinary scope and extraordinary power. Hector Tobar's second novel sweeps its central character from almost-serfdom and sends her on an odyssey through the teeming mysteries of Los Angeles and the wild jungles of the California judicial system....Tobar, a Los Angeles Times columnist, moves nimbly in and out of the minds of a host of characters, viewing even those who seem on the surface the least sympathetic with an awed authorial tenderness. The chief surprise of The Barbarian Nurseries is that, despite the social and ethnic schisms it so acutely explores, it turns out to be such a warm novel."
"Review" by , "The Barbarian Nurseries is a dark, poignant and hilarious tale of a family maid in Southern California who tries to hold things together as a marriage falls apart...That Tobar is so evenhanded, so compassionate, so downright smart, should place his new novel on everyone's must-read list."
"Review" by , "In his ambitious second novel, The Barbarian Nurseries, Hector Tobar plants issues both timely and timeless — race, class, mixed marriage, immigration, servitude, parenting — and raises them up from the fertile narrative soil of Southern California....[His] writing continually creates moments of uncommon magic."
"Review" by , "The Barbarian Nurseries, in stylistic homage to Charles Dickens, Tom Wolfe and T. C. Boyle, paints a rich Panavision place and time as sprawling and paradoxical as its subject....Tobar has crafted an illuminating parable for this historical moment, and an entertaining one, and provided a social mirror within which are faces we need to understand, and face."
"Review" by , "Hector Tobar's The Barbarian Nurseries is that rare novel that redefines a city. It has the necessary vital sweep of culture and class that brings a city to life, but its power lies in Tobar's ability to persuasively change the perspective from which the Los Angeles of the present — and, by extension, the United States — is seen. This book confirms the promise of Tobar's debut novel, The Tattooed Soldier."
"Review" by , "The Barbarian Nurseries is a huge novel of this century, as sprawling and exciting as Los Angeles itself, one that tracks a Mexican immigrant maid not only as static decor in 'real' America's economic rise and fall. Like yard workers and cooks, construction laborers and seamstresses, Tobar's Araceli has flesh, brains, dreams, ambition, history, culture, voice: a rich, generous life. A story that was demanded, we can celebrate that it is now here."
"Review" by , "Hector Tobar's novel is astonishing, like a many-layered mural on a long wall in Los Angeles, a tapestry of people and neighborhoods and stories. A vivid testament to Southern California as the world. Araceli is so unexpected and unique; she's a character America needs to see, and this novel takes her on a journey America needs to understand."
"Review" by , "Tobar, a veteran city reporter in Los Angeles, weaves an intricate urban tale animated by a creative, savvy protagonist."
"Review" by , "The strength of this book is to be found in its sympathetic portrayals of people who struggle to find a common language yet persist in misunderstanding one another...Tobar's portraits, acute and humane, render his characters intelligible. His illuminations become our recognitions."
"Review" by , "[R]iveting...a ripping novel — and a proper adventure yarn — about power and identity in 21st century California."
"Review" by , "This is a novel about Los Angeles, and maybe the finest we'll see for many years. It is also a novel that triumphantly transcends geography and delivers a stirring look at the borders of our expectations, both great and small."
"Review" by , "If Hector Tobar turns out to be the Charles Dickens or the Tom Wolfe of the 21st century, he owes a big thank-you to the people of California....Yuppies, immigrants, politicians and vigilantes — Tobar has them all coming together in a Crash-like moment for a perfect California ending that will leave readers pondering the inconsistencies in the country's dependence on illegal immigrants even as some of us persist in keeping them at arm's length."
"Review" by , "The Barbarian Nurseries is a grand, amusing read, a mad and sprawling city's less-mad but still sprawling apologia."
"Synopsis" by , Scott and Maureen Torres-Thompson have always relied on others to run their Orange County home. But when bad investments crater their bank account, it all comes down to Araceli: their somewhat prickly Mexican maid. One night, an argument between the couple turns physical, and a misunderstanding leaves the children in Araceli's care. Their parents unreachable, she takes them to central Los Angeles in the hopes of finding Scott's estranged Mexican father — an earnest quest that soon becomes a colossal misadventure, with consequences that ripple through every strata of the sprawling city. The Barbarian Nurseries is a masterful tale of contemporary Los Angeles, a novel as alive as the city itself.
"Synopsis" by ,
Winner of the California Book Award for Fiction

A Los Angeles Times Bestseller

Best Book of the Year Lists

The New York Times Book ReviewLos Angeles Times

San Francisco ChronicleThe Boston Globe

Scott and Maureen Torres-Thompson have always relied on others to run their Orange County home. But when bad investments crater their bank account, it all comes down to Araceli: their somewhat prickly Mexican maid. One night, an argument between the couple turns physical, and a misunderstanding leaves the children in Aracelis care. Their parents unreachable, she takes them to central Los Angeles in the hopes of finding Scotts estranged Mexican father---an earnest quest that soon becomes a colossal misadventure, with consequences that ripple through every strata of the sprawling city. The Barbarian Nurseries is a masterful tale of contemporary Los Angeles, a novel as alive as the city itself.

"Synopsis" by ,
A New York Times Notable Book for 2011
A Boston Globe Best Fiction Book of 2011
The great panoramic social novel that Los Angeles deserves—a twenty-first century, West Coast Bonfire of the Vanities by the only writer qualified to capture the city in all its glory and complexity

With The Barbarian Nurseries, Héctor Tobar gives our most misunderstood metropolis its great contemporary novel, taking us beyond the glimmer of Hollywood and deeper than camera-ready crime stories to reveal Southern California life as it really is, across its vast, sunshiny sprawl of classes, languages, dreams, and ambitions.

Araceli is the live-in maid in the Torres-Thompson household—one of three Mexican employees in a Spanish-style house with lovely views of the Pacific. She has been responsible strictly for the cooking and cleaning, but the recession has hit, and suddenly Araceli is the last Mexican standing—unless you count Scott Torres, though youd never suspect he was half Mexican but for his last name and an old family photo with central L.A. in the background. The financial pressure is causing the kind of fights that even Araceli knows the children shouldnt hear, and then one morning, after a particularly dramatic fight, Araceli wakes to an empty house—except for the two Torres-Thompson boys, little aliens shes never had to interact with before. Their parents are unreachable, and the only family member she knows of is Señor Torres, the subject of that old family photo. So she does the only thing she can think of and heads to the bus stop to seek out their grandfather. It will be an adventure, she tells the boys. If she only knew . . .

With a precise eye for the telling detail and an unerring way with character, soaring brilliantly and seamlessly among a panorama of viewpoints, Tobar calls on all of his experience—as a novelist, a father, a journalist, a son of Guatemalan immigrants, and a native Angeleno—to deliver a novel as broad, as essential, as alive as the city itself.

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