We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours.
With these words, spoken by an illegal Mexican day laborer, The Madonnas of Echo Park takes us into the unseen world of Los Angeles, following the men and women who cook the meals, clean the homes, and struggle to lose their ethnic identity in the pursuit of the American dream.
When a dozen or so girls and mothers gather on an Echo Park street corner to act out a scene from a Madonna music video, they find themselves caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting. In the aftermath, Aurora Esperanza grows distant from her mother, Felicia, who as a housekeeper in the Hollywood Hills establishes a unique relationship with a detached housewife.
The Esperanzas’ shifting lives connect with those of various members of their neighborhood. A day laborer trolls the streets for work with men half his age and witnesses a murder that pits his morality against his illegal status; a religious hypocrite gets her comeuppance when she meets the Virgin Mary at a bus stop on Sunset Boulevard; a typical bus route turns violent when cultures and egos collide in the night, with devastating results; and Aurora goes on a journey through her gentrified childhood neighborhood in a quest to discover her own history and her place in the land that all Mexican Americans dream of, "the land that belongs to us again."
Like the Academy Award–winning film Crash, The Madonnas of Echo Park follows the intersections of its characters and cultures in Los Angeles. In the footsteps of Junot Díaz and Sherman Alexie, Brando Skyhorse in his debut novel gives voice to one neighborhood in Los Angeles with an astonishing— and unforgettable—lyrical power.
Skyhorse maps in his vivid debut the spirit of L.A.'s Echo Park, where Mexican-Americans define themselves either in alignment with or in opposition to their barrio. Each story-like chapter tells the tale of a character who has grown up in, moved to, or fled Echo Park, such as an itinerant construction worker hired to dispose of a murder weapon, a woman who converses with the Virgin Mary, and a hustler who swears he's going to stay out of prison this time. These lives coalesce around a random shooting that claims the life of a young girl. Family epics also emerge, notably the story of Aurora Esperanza, whose absent father narrates the opening story and whose mother was at the center of a tragedy. Aurora herself closes out the book, drawing together threads of homecoming that weave throughout the novel. Though a few of the narrators' voices aren't distinct enough, Skyhorse excels at building a vibrant community and presenting several perspectives on what it means to be Mexican in America, from those who wonder how can you lose something that never belonged to you? to those who miraculously find it.
Customer ReviewsSee All
I first saw this book a while back, but finally decided to take the plunge and buy the iBook. I am so glad I did! Skyhorse does a marvelous job of connecting all of his characters together in a way that keep you at the edge of your seat hoping to find out whose story is next. I cannot recommend this book enough!
The madonnas of echo park
Fabulous! A definite MUST read! U literally get goose bumps as the stories interconnect! Hope more books by the author keep coming!
Why just OK?
The books hold such promise in the beginning. A colorful stories of "madonnas" and old Latin LA in Chavez Ravine, a mix of music and color wafting through a historical and cultural series od snapshots of Los Angeles that is new. Not so fast, unfortunately.
The are some snapshots like that but too few and the parts that are mostly in the middle are a morass of weak philosophical mumbo jumbo that almost made me let go of the book entirely. I can only say that I held on because I am a lover of Los Angeles and especially of it's Mexican roots and I was rewarded towards the end with a wonderful passage about a girl, Los Angeles and her dog. Whew!