I went to hear Héctor Tobar speak at University of California, Riverside last month and bought a copy of his novel, The Barbarian Nurseries, which he kindly signed with “a big abrazo.”
Having just read the book, I realize how big that abrazo was and is. Tobar gathered a whole lot of what I love about Southern California and about Mexico in a strong, broad embrace and hugged it (and me) long and masterfully, unwinding a loving, lingering tale.
Lady Pamela and I have been fortunate to travel fairly extensively, and thirty or so years ago spent enough time in a language school in Cuernavaca, Mexico to coax my high school Spanish to a reasonably conversational level. We lived with the Arillo family, who became lifelong friends. They had little need of English, living an hour over the mountains south of Mexico City, and my longing to communicate more deeply with them was impetus to aprender más su idioma. Eric Crocker, a closer friend, was a Uruguayan-born bi-cultural American who lived his final years with his wife on a beach north of Acapulco. I do not have raices latinos myself, other than honorary, but I feel as deep a kinship.
In The Barbarian Nurseries Héctor Tobar pulled me into the contradictions and paradoxes playing out in the hearts and minds and actions of his richly conceived and developed characters. His writing deserves all the accolades he receives, which are many. Reading Tobar is a big abrazo!