THE MADONNAS OF ECHO PARK
BY BRANDO SKYHORSE
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.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Born and raised in Echo Park, CA, Brando Skyhorse is a graduate of Stanford University and the MFA Writers’ Workshop program at UC Irvine. For the past ten years he has worked in New York publishing. His next book, also forthcoming from Free Press, is a memoir about growing up with five stepfathers.
Brando Skyhorse gives readers a book in which each chapter could almost be a short story if not for the fact that he expertly weaves them all together into one amazing book, THE MADONNAS OF ECHO PARK. Basically, Skyhorse writes about two families and their stories link together to create what is ECHO PARK through the author’s eyes. Through his broadly assorted troupe of players their views of the culture in the Echo Park neighborhood are conveyed to the reader making readers feel as though they are a part of the community themselves.
This community is basically focused around the lives of Aurora Espinoza, who grows up in constant battle with her mother, Felicia, and whose absentee father narrates the opening of the story. Also, there is poor lonely Beatriz who buys coats to warm her soul after an unnerving encounter with the Virgin Mary at a bus stop. Gang member Manny Mendoza is the one who fires the bullet that mistakenly kills a 3-year old girl dancing with a group on a street corner to a Madonna song, which was actually recorded in that area. Mendoza goes on to brag about his accidental deed and it results in consequences he never expected from his tough son who is shocked by this news. The community also includes Manny's estranged brother Efren, a “by-the-books” bus driver who is intolerant of Mexicans who don‘t have the proper paperwork (thus very timely with all the talk of illegal immigrants currently going on).
Many more of Skyhorse's characters are connected in ways they don't even realize and share parts in each others stories. Aurora actually closes the story by basically pulling together all the pieces that were found within the novel itself. Readers are led to understand how even casual events in our lives can fit into a larger piece of a whole that we aren’t even aware of. Brando Skyhorse does an amazing job of creating a stimulating community that offers several different points of view on just what being Mexican in America is like. He speaks of those who think “how can you lose something that never belonged to you?” to those who “incredibly find it“.
THANKS TO CAITLIN AT SIMON
AND SCHUSTER, I HAVE THREE
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