Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Sunday Review: "The Barbarian Nurseries"

Over at Navel Gazing at the OC Weekly online, Andrew Tonkovich reviews Hector Tobar's The Barbarian Nurseries.


"Too many questions," says Araceli Ramirez, the protagonist of Hector Tobar's new killer novel The Barbarian Nurseries to her two young wards as the Mexican housekeeper from the South County McMansion (in what seems a lot like Ladera Ranch) and the boys arrive at the downtown rail yard loop where Amtrak passes warehouses, the Los Angeles River and Metropolitan Jail on its slow approach to Union Station. Brandon and Kennan Torres-Thompson, presumed kidnap victims, are on the adventure of a lifetime, assuming your life has been short, privileged and dominated by video games and fantasy-adventure series, here something called, perfectly, The Saga of the Fire-Swallowers, which sounds a lot like the various series the Bibliofella's young reader son consumes like popcorn.

Araceli has been employed by a wealthy family residing fifty miles south, on idyllic and hyperbolically-christened Paseo Linda Bonita in Laguna Rancho Estates (see what I mean?). She's been transformed, first from a complex, creative person with a rich past, a family, talent and artistic ambitions, into one of those one-dimensional shadow beings called domestic help. Then, with the two rich white boys in tow, she suddenly becomes a suspect perp in an Amber Alert drama with accompanying nativist-racist politics, an opportunistic prosecutor, the totally predictable (and not disappointing) media spectacle and the genuine if startlingly sweet curiosity of two children. Raised in the picture-perfect confines of the gated, gardened, upscale life, they ask her about the concrete river, homeless people, the whole concept of the city, as if their little big brains, so familiar with the virtual and the fantastical worlds, lack a place to put it all.

To read the rest, click here.

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