Did you have the title in mind before you began writing? Or did it fall into place after finishing the book? I didn't know that it was a book, honestly. My big brother Juan died of cancer. And, you know, the family had given him a farewell birthday party. And my family attended. And they had never seen anything like it. And I think my wife really had the idea that I should write a book about it.
He had passed away very soon after this party. And, oddly enough, Jim Harrison, the great novelist…. And we had an opportunity to have supper one night. And he asked me: "Tell me about your brother's death.
‘The House of Broken Angels’ author Luis Alberto Urrea answers your questions
For the purposes of the novel, if you're going to have kind of a rupture that in some ways maybe represents the border, migration, immigration, to have one brother who is from a different mom who happens to be American, who doesn't quite know how to penetrate that incredibly well-woven world of the primary family.
So, yes, I mean, it gave me a palette that I could paint that character with, because I could understand everything I think that he felt or any doubts he may have had, whereas I think, in some of the other characters who may have been based on real life, I had to guess a little bit and hope for the best.
You were telling me just before we started that you had to go to your family, some of them, and say, OK, it's based on you, but here's what fiction is. Fiction is not the truth. After my brother died, I went to the family. The family threw a little dinner in San Diego, and his widow and I went, and we were all talking.
And she just kept staring at me across the table like this. And I said: "OK, yes, I have based this novel on what happened to us and what happened to you. But it's fiction. And said: "So, fiction, it's a lie.
I made it up, you know? I'm making things up, and I'm making a movie, and sometimes you have to act in my mind, so I can write. And she just stared at me like that.
And she put her finger up. And she said: "I just want to know, are you, you know, paying respects?
Are you honoring my husband? One of my favorite passages in this book is where Big Angel remembers his father saying to him: "This second just became the past. As soon as you noticed it, it was already gone. The concept of time comes up again and again in this book, and I was wondering if you could talk about that. I love that question, because time is such an essence of the book, also kind of making fun of Mexican time in a way.
Big Angel is obsessed with time. And that comes directly from my own father.
Tropes that apply to Team Angel as a whole:
People used to call my father the German, because he was punctual. In fact, he was early to everything. So that bled over. And that line that Big Angel's father has said to him was something my father said to me. To me, the ticking clock in this is that we know he's going to die, he knows he's going to die, and he only has so much time to try to rectify anything that he may have done wrong or any problems in the family, which I think any of us who are parents, you know, who were once in our 20s and no longer there, you know, we all think about these things as time passes.
And there were a few passages that my wife, Cindy, had to actually type because I couldn't deal with them. I just walked around crying saying them, an she typed them in for me. So the realization, I think, of time passing and everyone you love leaving someday — it's been a lot of loss in our family, but that was — yes, that became a kind of obsession to me.
You can't read this book now without thinking of the times we're in, the situation at the border, you know, the contention over immigration. I think it's our responsibility, if you're writing sort of social realism, to pay attention to what's going on, but also, you know, to universalize the story. And I cannot help but think that, if I give you this family, that may be quite different from your family, after a while, you will realize they're not that different, you know?
There's love. There's regret. There's life.
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Many of us love nothing more than to return to a beloved older book for a summer re-reading. So we decided to ask one of today's top writers to select a personal favorite, a book that continues to inspire and entertain her.
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June 21, 1897
What do you think? Witness interviews conducted by police do, however, provide insight into who George Herrera may have been. Christy Ronchetti, public relations director for the resort, confirmed that Herrera had worked for the company several years ago, but said his departure was an amicable decision reached between him and resort management. Several firefighters who helped transport Herrera to the ambulance said they knew the man from around town, but few were close to him.
State police canvassed the neighborhood around Monte Verde Lake seeking other information about the Herreras and possible witnesses. A neighbor said he heard about the fire and the shooting at church later the morning of May 5.