T.C Boyle’s The Tortilla Curtain alternates between the separate worlds of two men.
Càndido is an illegal immigrant trying to provide for his pregnant wife in the barren land of California. He spends his days waiting for work and hiding from La Migra, hoping he won’t have to return to the life he left in Mexico.
Delaney is a privileged nature writer frustrated with his neighbors who are rallying to build a wall around their homes to keep undesirable animals, as well as humans, out. When Delaney hits Càndido with his car, reality and ideals collide. From then on, their struggles mesh.
Immigrants take shelter on the land Delaney hikes through and he feels like they impeded on his territory. Neighborhood boys upend Càndido’s camp and steal his savings.
The backdrop to these dramas is the shifting environment of California itself and when a natural disaster breaks the land apart, it brings the two men together again.
The novel is both fiction and a study of our human nature. Humans in this story are likened to animals in subtle ways. Boyle writes a story that is pertinent to the present day when politicians are threatening to build their own walls and ignorance runs rampant.
The honesty of the writing makes some parts uncomfortable, but an important read. Boyle stresses the constant struggle of coexistence and in the process pushes us to work toward it.