The Barbarian Nurseries is a huge book. Not in pages, but in conflicts and themes. Aricela, the Mexican illegal and her employers, the Torres-Thompson's are symbols of the great divide.
Hector Tobar plants these characters in a McMansion in arid, sun drenched California. The economy has changed and Scott Torres' investments have dried up in much the same way as the tropical garden in the back yard has. Scott Torres struggles with the lawn, his children, his wife, and his mortgage.
In an effort to save money and face, Maureen Thompson hires workers to replace the dying, high maintenance garden with a desert garden using 1,000's of dollars of cactii because they require little or no care and nutrition. As a stay at home mother of 3 children, she spends her time decorating, entertainiing and doing art projects. She is educated, but unskilled in maintaining or nurturing her garden, her husband or her children.
Aricela is hired to clean the house and cook. She has dropped out of art college in Mexico and has had the crumbling Torres-Thompson family and U.S.'s conflict with immigration foisted upon her.
The American dream, the streets paved with gold, justice for all, art, education, activities of daily life, The Catcher in the Rye. It's all here and all questioned.(less)