The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
A big, messy novel about a Mexican American family coming together to celebrate and to mourn. Big Angel de la Cruz, ill with cancer, wants one last birthday party, and then his mother America dies at 100. Angel’s younger half brother, Little Angel, a literature professor in Seattle, reluctantly shows up, and the brothers resolve some issues and relive memories of their father Antonio, a motorcycle cop. Set on the southern border of California, the family doesn’t worry too much about legal status, as their history goes back before California was a state. Exuberant, intimate, funny, sad, and occasionally violent, the story of the de la Cruz family makes compelling reading. Big Angel’s wife Perla and her two sisters also tell their stories, and there is cake, a surprise mariachi band, and even a party crasher with a gun. Inspired by events in the Naperville author’s family, this is a moving and memorable story.
Eight Hundred Grapes by Laura Dave
Georgia Ford comes home to her family’s Sonoma Valley vineyard the week before her wedding, needing time to think but finding secrets and chaos. Two marriages are in trouble, and her parents are selling the vineyard. Georgia, a real estate lawyer, has just found out that her British fiance Ben has a daughter. It’s not clear when Ben meant to share that news with Georgia, even though they are moving to London right after their wedding. The Fords’ last harvest festival is just around the corner, and Georgia and her brothers struggle to reconnect while the reader learns through flashbacks the history of the family vineyard. I think the number of problems and secrets affecting the Ford family is much too high, but the characters feel real and the vineyard setting is well drawn. More of a family drama than a romantic comedy, this novel may become a movie. I think readers of books by Robyn Carr about the Lacoumette family, The Promise and New Hope, would enjoy this book.