The novel is a series of short stories, with each linked to the next. It begins with Aurora's estranged father waiting for day labour. We see the neighbourhood of Echo Park through his eyes. The story then segues through seemingly unrelated stories - a bus ride gone very wrong, a woman who believes she has seen the Virgin Mary, a young girl shot down as she dances to Madonna music on a street corner, and more until we 'meet' Aurora in the last chapter. The links are sometimes very surprising, jumping out and heading in a direction you least expect. (Madonna did film the video for Borderline in Echo Park)
Brando brings this neighbourhood to life and the characters, locale and dialogue have the ring of authenticity. The stories are powerful and some are unsettling. The fourth story, Rules of the Road, is about Efren, a Mexican born naturalized American who starts a race war after inadvertently killing a black man. His mind set and determination to follow the rules was unsettling.
Skyhorse presents many different voices and outlooks, male and female, all with equal talent. This was a completely different read for me, but I really enjoyed it. A really strong debut novel. The follow up -
Things My Fathers Taught Me - about life with 5 stepfathers - should be an interesting read as well.
And did the 'real' Aurora ever read the book? Brando did meet and talk to her, but wasn't sure if she would read the book.
Read an excerpt of The Madonnas of Echo Park. There is a reading club guide prepared as well.