The figurative language of Luis Alberto Urrea…

Reading time: Less than 2 minutes

I like to share interesting pieces of figurative language I encounter in my reading. I write today about a series of similes from Luis Alberto Urrea…

I bought and read the novel The House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urea (pictured above) after hearing several laudatory reviews on NPR and New York Times podcasts. Urrea is the son of a Mexican father and an American mother who was himself born in Mexico, although he is considered an American born abroad.

His novel reflects his deep understanding of Mexican culture and his discomfort with the status of Mexico following the election of Donald Trump. But, mostly, to my eye, it displays his skill with figurative language. Here are my favourite examples:

  • Now his watch circled his wrist freely like a collar too big for its dog.
  • Lalo driving, his Perla in the navigator’s seat fretting in Old Mexican Woman fashion: “Ay Dios. Dios mio. Por Dios.” God being worn down by faithful repetition.
  • The morning had crept downhill like brown sludge.
  • The car was vast and pillowy. Little Angel felt like he was driving a square acre of 1979.
  • He took the turns wide and hit I-5 like a cloud being pushed by a sea storm.
  • She was confused by the plastic clip from the heart monitor that was clamped to her forefinger like a laundry pin.
  • This priest had teeth like a rat; they made him whistle a little when he talked. And when he really got going, he sprayed like a little lawn sprinkler.
  • She used to have a bright pink rattail comb and a jar of some hairstyling phlegm called Dippity-do.
  • They were sinking into the mud, picking up fallen leaves with their heels like groundskeepers in parks with spike sticks.
  • Her hair, piling on her shoulders, was electric with highlights, like glitters on a sea of ink.
  • That comfortable old silence spread between them, as warm and luxurious as a well-fed cat.
  • He oozed cigarette smoke from his mouth and nostrils like a burning barn, his broken teeth like the shattered boards of the barn door.
  • Swirls of gulls and pelicans like God’s own confetti snowed across those sky riots.
  • He had shaved his ‘stache down to a slender worm of insinuation that seemed to nap on his upper lip.
  • He actually had tears in his eyes. The sparkle of them pierced everyone like needles.

I’m going to be watching for more books from Luis Alberto Urrea.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on my blog on April 26/18.


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