“The Barbarian Nurseries” by Hector Tobar

51v57MmwSkLThe Los Angeles Times columnist’s latest novel explores beyond the glimmer of Hollywood and deeper than the tabloid crime stories to reveal Southern California life as it is really lived, across its sunshiny sprawl of classes and languages, dreams and ambitions.

The story follows housekeeper Araceli, who one morning finds herself alone in a Westside house with two small children, and sets out by bus to central Los Angeles to find the boys’ grandfather.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux. 432 pages. $27.