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Review: The Madonnas of Echo Park

August 27, 2010

Echo Park is a neighborhood of Los Angeles that has seen many transformations through the years, and until recently was a Latino neighborhood.  Many of the neighborhood’s residents were born in this country, yet never really feel American, because they feel so closely identified with the neighborhood and its people.

The Madonnas of Echo Park, by Brando Skyhorse, gives reader a peek into the lives of these people, in a series of connected fictional short stories.   Some characters appear in more than one story, but the real connection to them is Echo Park –  it has such a presence that it’s almost another character –  and a drive by shooting that occurs in one of the stories.   After reading this book, I feel like I have visited Echo Park.

I’m afraid that I can’t do this unique book justice, but I really enjoyed it from the author’s note to the very end, and would be hard pressed to pick a favorite character or story.   I think this book does a wonderful job of addressing stereotypes that many people have of Mexicans and Mexican-Americans and does a wonderful job of showing the diversity of the ethnic group.  One character said, “I am a Mexican. . .but a Mexican is not all that I am.”  I started this book one evening before going to bed and had the characters on my mind all night – I think they will linger in my mind for a while.  I am having trouble explaining just why I loved this book so much, so I’m just going to say that I think it’s a must read that you won’t want to miss.

Brando Skyhorse has a fascinating past.  His Mexican father abandoned him when he was three years old and he was raised as the son of a Native American man.  (Brando comes from his mother’s love of the movie The Godfather.)  He says he embraces “both Mexican and Indian identities.”  He is currently working on a memoir and I think he’s an author to watch.  Here’s what he has to say about The Madonnas of Echo Park:

Review copy provided by Free Press.  I am an Indiebound Affiliate.
33 Comments leave one →
  1. August 27, 2010 5:25 am

    I have been wondering what this book was about! Thanks for enlightening us.

  2. August 27, 2010 6:29 am

    I have been dying to read this book ever since we saw him at the panel at Borders. Great review!

  3. August 27, 2010 6:32 am

    I was eying this one at the library ==sounds good.

  4. August 27, 2010 7:32 am

    I haven’t heard of this one. Sounds very interesting!

  5. August 27, 2010 8:01 am

    I’m intrigued by the concept of connected stories. This sounds like a good book. Adding it to my list.

  6. August 27, 2010 8:23 am

    I have been looking for more short story collections and I like that this one ties together with it’s characters and situations. Great review! I am going to have to try this one!

  7. August 27, 2010 8:36 am

    I haven’t heard of this one but in my books being difficult to describe makes it a must-read. There are some books that are unexplainable, and usually worth picking up.

  8. August 27, 2010 8:59 am

    I’m not a short story person but this definitely sounds like a good collection!

  9. August 27, 2010 9:34 am

    I haven’t heard of this book before, but you give it a ringing endorsement, as far as I’m concerned. A book that has such compelling characters that you can’t get them out of your head is a book I want to read.

  10. August 27, 2010 9:48 am

    This is a new one to me. Thanks for the suggestion.

  11. August 27, 2010 10:21 am

    I love the statement that “I am a Mexican . . . but a Mexican is not all that I am.” I think we can all relate to that statement. I am an American but that isn’t all that I am either. We have Mexican families moving into NE Pennsylvania and they are just referred to as “the Mexicans” as though they are all the same. I hope they can assimilate into our society so that people discover their individuality.

  12. August 27, 2010 10:21 am

    I don’t much like short stories but this one actually sounds good.

  13. August 27, 2010 10:52 am

    I’ve heard about this book and this author – both sound very intriguing!

  14. August 27, 2010 12:46 pm

    This sounds like one I would enjoy. I like short stories that are interconnected and the focus on a particular group is also appealing.

  15. August 27, 2010 2:00 pm

    This one sounds so great!! I have it ready to read on my nook… just need to get around to finishing all the other books I need to!

  16. August 27, 2010 3:20 pm

    You really do read the most varied and interesting books…I wish I could.

  17. August 27, 2010 3:24 pm

    Kathy, this does sound incredible: how did it escape my radar until now? Great review and video!

  18. August 27, 2010 3:44 pm

    Sounds very enticing to me!!

  19. August 27, 2010 5:18 pm

    I can understand why you couldn’t get the characters off your mind. This is a very good review.

  20. August 27, 2010 6:42 pm

    It’s always great when a place has such presence in a book. Almost like a character itself.

  21. stacybuckeye permalink
    August 27, 2010 7:24 pm

    Looks like this one really captures the place and offers a unique cultural perspective.

  22. August 27, 2010 8:17 pm

    I have to admit that I never gave this book more than a glance previously because I wasn’t too impressed with the title. Now I’m curious. Your review has made me eager to read it!

  23. August 27, 2010 9:06 pm

    while this book sounds quiet good, I think his own memoir will be even more interesting.

  24. August 27, 2010 9:48 pm

    With such a high recommendation from you I will definitely have to add this book to my wish list.

  25. August 28, 2010 1:36 pm

    This is my kind of read – nice review!

  26. August 28, 2010 1:54 pm

    I’ve been seeing buzz about this one in lots of magazines and wondering if it’s worth my time – glad to know it is!

  27. August 28, 2010 10:10 pm

    I’ve been wondering about this one–I know it’s kind of a critics fave but wasn’t sure what “real” readers would think.

  28. August 28, 2010 10:26 pm

    Great review. I read this book a few weeks ago and I still can’t put my thoughts into words. I really enjoyed this book. My favorite story was “Our Lady of Lost Souls”.

  29. August 29, 2010 8:58 pm

    I think that is a neat way to tie short stories together … to have them linked to a specific geographic location.

  30. August 30, 2010 12:40 pm

    I haven’t really heard much about this book. You’ve certainly made me curious!

  31. August 30, 2010 1:14 pm

    I’m a little late catching up on blogs … loved your review, Kathy. I will add this to my list.

  32. September 1, 2010 4:03 pm

    I love books that I love but can’t exactly put into words why. It’s frustrating when trying to write the review, but I love them all the same. Sounds like this is one I need to watch out for.

  33. September 3, 2010 3:57 pm

    great review! this book sounds like something i would really enjoy. i’m adding it to my wishlist.

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