In Perfect Light by Benjamin Alire Saenz

April 2, 2005
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In Perfect Light
Benjamin Alire Saenz

HarperCollins Publishers Inc.
2005
Trade Paperback/328 pages
ISBN: 0-06-077920-9
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". . .a delicately patched quilt of rage, sorrow, love, hopelessness, despair and tragedy."

"…it hits at the core of human emotions and lingers in the memory for weeks."

"His [Saenz] talent as a poet emerges in his masterful use of dialogue and metaphor."

I cried for an hour as I savored the last chapters of Benjamin Alire Saenz’s novel, In Perfect Light. Saenz’s characters roar to life, deftly knitted into a story that moves between times “forgotten and remembered,” a delicately patched quilt of rage, sorrow, love, hopelessness, despair and tragedy.

 

The plot evolves around Andres Segovia’s tragic life. At the age of ten his parents are killed in an automobile accident. Determined to keep the family together his brother Mando abducts Andres and two sisters, Yoland and Ileana, from a loving foster home and takes them to Juarez, Mexico. The struggle to survive pushes the family into a life of drugs, prostitution and sexual abuse. The family destroyed, Andres, still only a teenager, barely escapes the clutches of a pimp and crosses the Santa Fe Bridge back to El Paso. Filled with self-hate, he constantly gets arrested for different degrees of assault.

In his early twenties, he is charged with murder of a paroled sex offender. During mandatory counseling sessions with therapist Grace Delgado, his true beauty and anguish is revealed. Saenz weaves both of their lives into parallel stories told in flashbacks by a narrator. Grace, diagnosed with cancer, and still grieving the death of her husband, is unable to fully connect with her son who resembles her client Andres. Together, Andres and Grace embark on a journey that is so raw and honest that it hits at the core of human emotions and lingers in the memory for weeks.

Saenz, born in his grandmother''s house in Picacho, New Mexico, forty miles north of the Mexican border, is familiar with life in “the middle of two countries.” His talent as a poet emerges in his masterful use of dialogue and metaphor. He writes about people with good intentions whose “sick and twisted and crooked kind of love” is deadly and how their victims continue to search for a “cure for the truly hurt.”

Reviewer: Kate Padilla

 

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This post was written by Kate Padilla

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