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Extended Audio Sample The Madonnas of Echo Park, by Brando Skyhorse Click for printable size audiobook cover
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: Alma Cuervo, Alyssa Bresnaham, Annie Henk, Florencia Lozano, Jonathan Davis, Luis Moreno, Robert Ramirez, Tony Chiroldes Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio Format: Unabridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date:
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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

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

Listener Opinions

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 by 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 by 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 by 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 by 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. "

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