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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 466

The intricate web of relationships holding together a large Mexican-American clan are at the heart of the novel. The main character, who is throwing a birthday bash while he is at death’s door, expresses this well.

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Upsetting the party plan and outraging many family members is the fact of their mother’s death. Miguel Angel must decide what kind of service, if any, to have. Religious differences make this a challenge.

There was no time left for a big Catholic funeral in a big Catholic church. What church could they have picked? Half the family had briefly become Mormons, and some of them were in a UFO-worshipping group awaiting the return of the Anunnaki when Planet X came back into Earth’s orbit. Some of them were evangelicals. Or nothing. Lalo was probably an atheist. Or a sunworshipper. The eldest son of Big Angel’s brother César seemed to think he was a Viking.

The first family members who moved to the United States from Mexico decades earlier had to make their own way, figuring out the language as well as earning a living. One brother, Lalo, remembers those days.

No way of knowing how language re-created a family. His own children didn’t want to learn Spanish, when he had given everything to learn English. The two men at the kitchen table with cigarettes and coffee and used dictionaries. They captured new words and pinned them like butterflies of every hue. “Aardvark,” “bramble,” “challenge,” “defiance.” One called out a word: “Incompatible.” The other had to define it in less than three minutes. Five points per word…. At the end of each month, a carton of Pall Malls was at stake.

Little Angel, who had an American mother and lives in...

(The entire section contains 466 words.)

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