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3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (1,040 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: Brando Skyhorse Narrator: Robert Ramirez, Luis Moreno, Alma Cuervo, Alyssa Bresnaham, Jonathan Davis, Tony Chiroldes, Florencia Lozano, Annie Henk Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: June 2010 ISBN: 9781442336162
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We slipped into this country like thieves, onto the land that once was ours.

So begins The Madonnas of Echo Park, the 2011 Hemingway Foundation/Pen Award winning novel by Brando Skyhorse. These words, spoken by an illegal Mexican day laborer, introduce us to the unseen world of Los Angeles, following the men and women who cook the meals, clean the homes, and struggle to lose their ethnic identity in the pursuit of the American dream.

When a dozen or so girls and mothers gather on an Echo Park street corner to act out a scene from a Madonna music video, they find themselves caught in the crossfire of a drive-by shooting. In the aftermath, Aurora Esperanza grows distant from her mother, Felicia, who as a housekeeper in the Hollywood Hills establishes a unique relationship with a detached housewife.

The Esperanzas’ shifting lives connect with those of various members of their neighborhood. A day laborer trolls the streets for work with men half his age and witnesses a murder that pits his morality against his illegal status; a religious hypocrite gets her comeuppance when she meets the Virgin Mary at a bus stop on Sunset Boulevard; a typical bus route turns violent when cultures and egos collide in the night, with devastating results; and Aurora goes on a journey through her gentrified childhood neighborhood in a quest to discover her own history and her place in the land that all Mexican Americans dream of, "the land that belongs to us again." 

Like the Academy Award–winning film Crash, The Madonnas of Echo Park follows the intersections of its characters and cultures in Los Angeles. In the footsteps of Junot DÍaz and Sherman Alexie, Brando Skyhorse in his debut novel gives voice to one neighborhood in Los Angeles with an astonishing— and unforgettable—lyrical power.

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Quotes & Awards

  • “A beautiful sweep of Los Angeles, told through mulitiple viewpoints that showcase Brando Skyhorse’s breadth. The Madonnas of Echo Park is a terrific journey, where characters reemerge unexpectedly until by the end the book has created a full and vivid world.” 

    Aimee Bender, New York Times bestselling author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake

  • “Engaging storytelling, informed by a keen understanding of contemporary immigrant life, reminiscent of Junot Díaz and Chang Rae-Lee.” 

    Vanity Fair

  • “Skyhorse excels at building a vibrant community and presenting several perspectives on what it means to be Mexican in America, from those who wonder ‘how can you lose something that never belonged to you?’ to those who miraculously find it.” 

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Rich and textured…Skyhourse uses elegant prose and vivid storytelling to tackle surrounding culture, belonging, and identity that haunt every immigrant community.” 

    Christian Science Monitor

  • Winner of the 2011 PEN/Ernest Hemingway Foundation Award
  • Recipient of the Barnes & Noble Discover Award
  • Selected for the June 2010 Indie Next List

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Lauren | 2/20/2014

    " I had to read this novel because it takes place in my neighborhood of Echo Park, a historic piece of Los Angeles that has changed faces over the last several decades, first with white movie stars, then Mexican immigrants, then Chinese immigrants, and now a mix of Salvadoran immigrants and white hipsters. Told in a series of short stories with interwoven characters, The Madonnas of Echo Park paints a portrait of a 20th century Los Angeles Mexican community, where families struggle with violence, capitalism, racial tension and sexism. The stories are told from the perspectives of day laborers, housecleaners, bus drivers, college students, mothers, daughters, fathers, wives, gangsters, ex-gangsters, crazy coat ladies who see visions of The Virgin Mary on Sunset Boulevard. Even if you don't live in Echo Park, the spirit of the place will come alive for you, through Brando Skyhorse's descriptive prose. But I loved knowing exactly what street corners and shopping centers the characters were walking by as they navigated the hyphenated borderlands of an American existence. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ayelet | 2/15/2014

    " If Crash were a book "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Ivy | 2/12/2014

    " I liked it but got frustrated towards the end. This is the second book I've read recently that skips around to individual people's perspective by chapter (the first being A Visit from the Good Squad) and I've decided it is not my favorite literary device. Not to say that this book is not well written and interesting, it just required a special effort I didn't have by the end to keep track of who was related and how to whom. If it wasn't a library book, I definitely would have finished it and still intend to eventually. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Beekay | 2/9/2014

    " This is a particularly important book given our current climate toward immigrants, particularly Mexican immigrants, and those who have been here for two and three generations. A rare glimpse into the rligious, "gangs" and familial love set in a now gentrified section of Los Angeles. The characters are well developed and brutally honest. U really liked this book and recommend it for both its importance and for enjoyment. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Judy | 2/1/2014

    " The writing style of this novel reminded me of Let the Great World Spin. Each chapter focuses on a new character who is loosely connected to one main event, in this case, a drive-by shooting. At first I wondered if I was going to be reading a collection of short stories but soon came to realize how the characters' lives were intertwined and how one event affected so many. Neither of the books captivated my interest. They were just moderately interesting to me. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Susi | 2/1/2014

    " 3 and 1/2 stars. I wanted to love this book and found much to admire, but it fell short of my expectations. There were parts when it wasn't clear what was happening--and not just the moments of magical realism. Calling it a "novel" on the cover is misleading since it's really a "novel in stories." I like short story collections and novels in stories, but it might create an expectation for other readers that it will be something other than it is. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Christie | 1/31/2014

    " This book was almost transcendent, but not quite. It's the story of a place, the story of a community, and the story of outsiders, but it somehow didn't hit the perfect pitch of a truly great novel. I don't know why it didn't, and I enjoyed it for what it is. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Ahf | 1/23/2014

    " I just don't love it. It never came together as a single book for me, and I found most of the characters to be uninterersting and not to provide the insights into Mexican American culture that I would have tipped the balance for me. Book club discussion improved my reactons marginally by focusing on the plight of illegal aliens and the poverty in which many of the characters live. Still not an enjoyable or gripping read. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Sandra Clemmons | 1/20/2014

    " In am not a big fan of short stories. This book stretched my background knowledge. The only prior knowledge I had about the Hispanic day workers comes from a children's book by Eve Bunting "A Day's Work". "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Diane | 1/18/2014

    " I liked this interweaving of stories, however, it was hard sometimes trying to remember who was who referred to earlier on. This would have been a great book to read on an e-reader just to be able to refer back. He's someone to watch fo. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Carine | 12/21/2013

    " Fantastic read. Magic realism meets LA, depicting the intertwining lives of Mexican-Americans, American-Mexicans and those who don't fit into either category. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Sheryl | 12/19/2013

    " A BCBC selection. An interesting book. I had a bit of trouble keeping track of who was talking and who was related to whom. A big circle but it could have used (in my opinion) more ironing out, too many bumps in the road for a smooth read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Aldona | 12/16/2013

    " Character and culture collide in the hills of Los Angeles - and definitely not the Hollywood Hills. Unforgettable narrative brings you Latino reality beautifully detailed. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Edith | 11/29/2013

    " I enjoyed reading this book even thought at times it was difficult keeping track of all the characters and the relationship to one another. I felt like I needed a flow chart. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Janet | 11/22/2013

    " This book was really good until the very last story. Too much detail. But I loved how one story led to another and in the end you got the whole story. Be sure to read Author's notes. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 bookish | 11/19/2013

    " If you haven't read it yet, you should. It better than good, it's great. Highly recommended. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Diane Yannick | 11/10/2013

    " Decided not to finish this book as I found it very confusing. Although the descriptions were vivid, the characters were elusive. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jennifer | 11/5/2013

    " This was interesting! It was almost like a collections of short stories because each chapter features a different character's story, but all of the characters connect in some way. It was interesting to see how they all fit together in the end. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Barbara | 9/18/2013

    " Some of these stories worked for me; others didn't quite hit the mark. The female voices were stronger and more compelling. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Swardmelinda | 7/22/2013

    " Interesting prospective on immigration told through the eyes of a bunch of different characters. Really enjoyed it. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Candy | 5/17/2013

    " Too disjointed for me. Felt like multiple stories that were supposed to all tie in together but never did. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Christine | 4/4/2013

    " Terrible from the ridiculous premise and introduction of the book to the silly story within the book. A middle class person's version of what working class people are like. AND he gets most of it wrong including his use of Spanish within the context of pages. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Wendy P | 1/2/2013

    " I liked some of the stories, but overall not overly impressed with the story. Kind of boring. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Shoshana | 2/17/2012

    " I found this book a bit frustrating. It should have been a book of short stories. The individual stories were interesting and I wanted to know more about them. Too confusing keeping track of how they are all supposed to be interconnected. I did not even finish the last chapter. I was done by then. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Whitney Hardy | 11/25/2011

    " LOVED this book! One of the reviewers called it "refreshingly unsentimental" and I couldn't agree more. It felt very realistic and contemporary. Skyhorse wrote about what he knows, and this book leaves you wanting more. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Noemi Mendez | 10/24/2011

    " I cannot believe they compared this book to Junot Diaz and Sherman Alexie. These men are masters while Mr. Skyhorse is still playing in the minors. It was an interesting read but if you've seen the movie "Crash" you'll think you're read this before. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Govecon | 9/8/2011

    " I loved the way the characters' lives intersected. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Paula Swenson | 8/4/2011

    " Interesting read. This book explores the lives of several characters who lived in Echo Park a barrio of L.A. and their connections to each other. Muy interesante! "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Thomas | 6/19/2011

    " A good first novel. A little too M.F.A., but worth reading. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Annie | 5/18/2011

    " An artful look at the varied difficulties faced by Mexican immigrants and natives in Los Angeles over the last several decades. At times beautiful and horrifying, this book deserves to be on the New York Times bestseller list! "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Kathleen | 5/16/2011

    " Really enjoyed this book. I do loved "linked" stories, in general. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Robin | 5/4/2011

    " Very well-written and cleverly-intertwined stories of many who live in this part of LA. Would be even more interesting to people familiar with Echo Park. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Julie | 3/29/2011

    " Very well written interlocking stories about Mexicans living in L.A. and their struggles. I lost interest near the end though.... "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Mary | 3/17/2011

    " From the book jacket, I was so sure I'd like this book and couldn't wait to start it.
    But had a very hard time finishing it. Just couldn't get my mind around it. Very hard to read. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Jeff | 3/13/2011

    " Stylish, well-written but fell apart a little at the end. "

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About the Author
Author Brando SkyhorseBrando Skyhorse’s debut novel, The Madonnas of Echo Park, won the 2011 PEN/Hemingway Award and the Sue Kaufman Award for First Fiction from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Skyhorse is a graduate of Stanford University and the MFA Writers’ Workshop program at UC Irvine. He is the 2014 Jenny McKean Moore Writer-In-Washington at George Washington University.
About the Narrators

Robert Ramirez came to audiobook narration fresh from his MFA in classical theater. Initially answering a casting call for a narrator who spoke Spanish, Robert has used his Mexican-American background to imbue authentic flavor and dialogue in audio titles. His powerful command of language and rich voice reflect his interest in dialects. Ramirez is the winner of eight AudioFile Earphones Awards.

Luis Moreno, a voice actor, has narrated several audiobooks throughout his career.

Alma Cuervo is an Earphones Award–winning narrator and a stage actress and singer who has also performed in film and television. She holds an MFA in acting from the Yale School of Drama, from which she graduated in 1976 alongside Meryl Streep. She starred in the role of Madame Morrible in the first national tour of Wicked.

Jonathan Davis has received widespread critical acclaim for his narration in a variety of genres. He has won the prestigious Audie Award for Best Narration in 2009, 2011, and 2012, as well as being a finalist for an Audie in 2007, 2013, and three times in 2014. He has also garnered accolades from Publishers Weekly, USA Today, and AudioFile magazine and has earned more than a dozen AudioFile Earphones Awards.

Tony Chiroldes is one of New York City’s busiest voice-over performers. He was an original Broadway cast member of the Tony and Grammy Award-winning musical In the Heights, and has appeared in other productions such as The Capeman, Sympathy Jones, Senor Discretion Himself, and more. Tony has voiced hundreds of English and Spanish commercials and many audiobooks, including The Dreamer, for which he won an Earphone Award from AudioFile.

Annie Henk is an active bilingual voice-over artist and actress who has worked on several educational projects such as, Voces and ¿Como se Dice?.  She has been seen in various productions such as Branches and X & Y Stories in Songs from Coconut Hill Festival. Her film career includes Quejios, which premiered at the Philadelphia International Film Festival and screened internationally at the Inside Out Toronto Lesbian & Gay Film & Video Festival, the MIX Mexico Film Festival, and the New Festival. She is a member of the Present Tense Theater Project.