The story follows two couples: Delaney and Kyra Mossbacher, living in an exclusive community in the Los Angeles area; and Candido and America Rincon, Mexican immigrants who live (camp out, really) in the surrounding canyons, surviving day to day with whatever they can scrounge. Both couples are ultimately working toward the same thing – the “American Dream”, whatever that may be – but the author dramatically describes how different the paths are.
Illegal immigration is the underlying theme in this novel, and it was frankly difficult for me to read both the passages of what the Rincons endured to try to make a better life for themselves and of the narrow-mindedness of the middle-class represented in this novel. Sadly, I believe that what was described is closer to truth than to fiction and T.C. Boyle does not provide any answers to the problems encountered (rather, he does not provide lasting solutions) At the same time, the descriptions of the Southern California landscape are quite beautiful, even for me who is not a nature-type person and frankly not a fan of life in Los Angeles (based on my few business trips to the area)
With the right group (i.e. one that can promote civilized discussion) I think this would be a wonderful book to talk about with others.