, October 01, 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.