The Madonnas of Echo Park by Brando Skyhorse

Each piece in this powerful and entrancing  book stands on its own, but common threads (e.g. bloodlines, history and jacaranda blossoms) bring the stories and characters full circle by the end. Skyhorse tells the story of Echo Park, “a neighborhood beneath Dodger Stadium whose boundaries sit on a map of Los Angeles like a busty teenage girl with scoliosis and a hooked nose.”  We hear the voices of the Mexicans and Mexican-Americans who aren’t usually featured in popular fiction–the day laborer, the housekeeper, the bus driver trying to live the American Dream, the hustler, the young soldier.  All of the characters deal on some level with racial tensions, assimilation, heartbreak and disillusionment, but there is some magic along the way (one character who seems to be the Virgin of Guadalupe appears at a bus stop!). This is a beautiful, enlightening read–you will care deeply about Echo Park’s inhabitants, and will feel you’ve walked a bit in their shoes.