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The Barbarian Nurseries Audiobook, by Héctor Tobar Extended Sample Click for printable size audiobook cover
Author: Héctor Tobar Narrator: Frankie J. Alvarez Publisher: Blackstone Publishing Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: February 2015 ISBN: 9781483072647
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The great panoramic social novel that Los Angeles deserves—a twenty-first-century, West Coast Bonfire of the Vanities by the only writer qualified to capture the city in all its glory and complexity

With The Barbarian Nurseries, Héctor Tobar gives our most misunderstood metropolis its great contemporary novel, taking us beyond the glimmer of Hollywood and deeper than camera-ready crime stories to reveal Southern California life as it really is, across its vast, sunshiny sprawl of classes, languages, dreams, and ambitions.

Araceli is the live-in maid in the Torres-Thompson household—one of three Mexican employees in a Spanish-style house with lovely views of the Pacific. She has been responsible strictly for the cooking and cleaning, but the recession has hit, and suddenly Araceli is the last Mexican standing—unless you count Scott Torres, though you’d never suspect he was half Mexican but for his last name and an old family photo with central LA in the background. The financial pressure is causing the kind of fights that even Araceli knows the children shouldn’t hear, and then one morning, after a particularly dramatic fight, Araceli wakes to an empty house—except for the two Torres-Thompson boys, little aliens she’s never had to interact with before. Their parents are unreachable, and the only family member she knows of is Señor Torres, the subject of that old family photo. So she does the only thing she can think of and heads to the bus stop to seek out their grandfather. It will be an adventure, she tells the boys. If she only knew.

With a precise eye for the telling detail and an unerring way with character, soaring brilliantly and seamlessly among a panorama of viewpoints, Tobar calls on all of his experience—as a novelist, a father, a journalist, a son of Guatemalan immigrants, and a native Angeleno—to deliver a novel as broad, as essential, as alive as the city itself.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “Héctor Tobar’s novel is astonishing, like a many-layered mural on a long wall in Los Angeles, a tapestry of people and neighborhoods and stories. A vivid testament to Southern California as the world. Araceli is so unexpected and unique; she’s a character America needs to see, and this novel takes her on a journey America needs to understand.”

    Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon 

  • If Hector Tobar turns out to be the Charles Dickens or the Tom Wolfe of the twenty-first century, he owes a big thank-you to the people of California…Yuppies, immigrants, politicians and vigilantes—Tobar has them all coming together in a Crash-like moment for a perfect California ending that will leave readers pondering the inconsistencies in the country’s dependence on illegal immigrants.”


  • “Tobar delivers a riveting, insightful morality tale of conspicuously consuming Americans and their Mexican servants in the OC…His sharp eye for Southern California culture, spiraling plot twists, ecological awareness, and ample willingness to dole out comeuppance to the nauseatingly privileged may put readers in mind of T. C. Boyle.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Los Angeles Times journalist Tobar’s second novel is brimming with interwoven stories that form a vibrant portrait of his hometown of Los Angeles…The result is a marvelous pastiche of social commentary ensconced in a family domestic drama.”

    Booklist (starred review)

  • “Tobar’s superb multilayered novel defines the social divide of Southern California, emphasizing in a complex and human way that there are no black-and-white answers in the immigration debate.”

    Library Journal (starred review)

  • “Héctor Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries is that rare novel that redefines a city. It has the necessary vital sweep of culture and class that brings a city to life, but its power lies in Tobar’s ability to persuasively change the perspective from which the Los Angeles of the present—and by extension, the United States—is seen. This book confirms the promise of Tobar’s debut novel, The Tattooed Soldier.”

    Stuart Dybek, author of I Sailed with Magellan and The Coast of Chicago 

  • The Barbarian Nurseries is a huge novel of this century, as sprawling and exciting as Los Angeles itself, one that tracks a Mexican immigrant maid not only as static decor in ‘real’ America’s economic rise and fall. Like yard workers and cooks, construction laborers and seamstresses, Tobar’s Araceli has flesh, brains, dreams, ambition, history, culture, voice: a rich, generous life. A story that was demanded, we can celebrate that it is now here.”

    Dagoberto Gilb, author of Before the End, After the Beginning and The Flowers 

  • “Easily switching among Spanglish and its parent languages, narrator Frankie Alvarez quickly draws the listener into the cultural mix of greater Los Angeles. His expressive reading connects the listener to the emotions of this intense look at the economic divisions of contemporary America.”


  • A Los Angeles Times bestseller
  • One of the 2011 New York Times Book Review 100 Notable Books for Fiction

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About the Author

Héctor Tobar, now a weekly columnist for the Los Angeles Times, is a Pulitzer Prize–winning journalist and a novelist. He is the author of Translation Nation and The Tattooed Soldier. The son of Guatemalan immigrants, he is a native of the city of Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and three children.

About the Narrator

Frankie J. Alvarez is a film and television actor best known for his roles as a gangster or thug. He has appeared on such television shows as 24, CSI: Miami, and Entourage, among others.