In Perfect Light [NOOK Book]

Overview

From award-winning poet Benjamin Alire Sáenz comes In Perfect Light, a haunting novel depicting the cruelties of cultural displacement and the resilience of those who are left in its aftermath.

In Perfect Light is the story of two strong-willed people who are forever altered by a single tragedy. After Andés Segovia's parents are killed in a car accident when he is still a young boy, his older brother decides to steal the family away to Juárez, Mexico. That decision, made with ...

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In Perfect Light

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Overview

From award-winning poet Benjamin Alire Sáenz comes In Perfect Light, a haunting novel depicting the cruelties of cultural displacement and the resilience of those who are left in its aftermath.

In Perfect Light is the story of two strong-willed people who are forever altered by a single tragedy. After Andés Segovia's parents are killed in a car accident when he is still a young boy, his older brother decides to steal the family away to Juárez, Mexico. That decision, made with the best intentions, sets into motion the unraveling of an American family.

Years later, his family destroyed, Andés is left to make sense of the chaos -- but he is ill-equipped to make sense of his life. He begins a dark journey toward self-destruction, his talent and brilliance brought down by the weight of a burden too frightening and maddening to bear alone. The manifestation of this frustration is a singular rage that finds an outlet in a dark and seedy El Paso bar -- leading him improbably to Grace Delgado.

Recently confronted with her own sense of isolation and mortality, Grace is an unlikely angel, a therapist who agrees to treat Andés after he is arrested in the United States. The two are suspicious of each other, yet they slowly arrive at a tentative working relationship that allows each of them to examine his and her own fragile and damaged past. Andés begins to confront what lies behind his own violence, and Grace begins to understand how she has contributed to her own self-exile and isolation. What begins as an intriguing favor to a friend becomes Grace's lifeline -- even as secrets surrounding the death of Andés' parents threaten to strain the connection irreparably.

With the urgent, unflinching vision of a true storyteller and the precise, arresting language of a poet, Sáenz's In Perfect Light bears witness to the cruelty of circumstance and, more than offering escape, the novel offers the possibility of salvation.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
A poet, children's book author, former priest and author of House of Forgetting, Saenz returns with the gut-wrenching drama of a Mexican-American family's dissolution. Ten-year-old Andres Segovia sees his life ripped apart after his parents are killed in an El Paso auto accident. Older brother Mando steals Andres and his sisters, Yolie and Ileana, away from their comfortable American foster home to a dismal life across the bridge in Juarez, Mexico, in a misguided attempt to preserve the family. The Juarez of the dispossessed is more or less lawless; it is also the favored destination of paroled American child molestors, a premise on which the story turns. Andres, returning alone to El Paso a hardened and cynical young adult with violent tendencies, is counseled by therapist Grace Delgado, a single parent newly diagnosed with breast cancer; her son, with whom she has unresolved problems (and who is playfully named "Mister") is Andres's age. As Grace slowly and painfully unearths the story of Andres's tragic childhood, the two grow close, but it soon becomes clear that her life, Mister's and Andres's have crossed before. Despite telegraphing the plot, Saenz offers beautifully nuanced characterization, and interweaves disparate needs and lives with a skillful, sensitive touch. (Aug.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Light evokes images of beauty, purity, and naivet ; it connotes a divining spirit or guide, clarity amid obfuscation, a safe haven. American Book Award-winning poet, children's author, and former priest S enz has manipulated this metaphor in a visceral, heartrending story of two Mexican American families whose lives are intertwined owing to a violent, random act. Personifying her name, psychologist Grace Delgado, the central protagonist, confronts tragic suffering daily; Andres Segovia, one of her clients, experiences and dispenses pain daily. Neither is willing to reveal deep personal issues: Grace has not come to terms with her widowhood nor can she share her recent breast cancer diagnosis with her son; Andres, meanwhile, suppresses his guilt and shame about being sexually abused as a child prostitute. Both embody light and dark, beauty and pain, compassion and masked indifference. Despite the despair and unfairness meted out in life, Grace and Andres manage to wrest a sense of dignity and renewal from seemingly hopeless circumstances. Recommended for all fiction collections, particularly libraries serving a Hispanic community.-Sofia A. Tangalos, SUNY Buffalo Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
A poignant tale of a Mexican American community in El Paso as it faces the legacy of child prostitution. Poet and novelist Saenz (The House of Forgetting, 1997) is well attuned to the plight of these very real-seeming characters: a young Mexican man, Andres Segovia, coming to terms with having been sexually abused as a boy, is arrested in a drunken brawl and turns to the gringo pro-bono lawyer, Dave, who has gotten him out of scrapes before. When the man Andres has beat up dies-a sex offender out on parole whom Andres remembers raping him at age 12-Dave hands his case over to a kind of miracle-working lawyer of the underdog, Grace Delgado, a widow who has plenty of troubles of her own. At 50, she has just been diagnosed with breast cancer, although she eschews any treatment; her grown son, Mister, has married a woman Grace doesn't like, and the two inform her they plan to adopt the child of severely dysfunctional parents, further straining relations among them all. As Grace works patiently with Andres, his horrific story unravels: orphaned when his parents were killed in a car accident, he and his siblings tried to make a self-sufficient life for themselves, until his beloved brother, Mando, ran afoul of the law and the younger children became prey to criminals who robbed them of their youth. In brisk, short, stream-of-consciousness chapters, Saenz keeps these several strains of the story simmering: Dave struggles with his guilty conscious while Grace, confronting her own crisis of mortality, attains a kind of religious redemption in helping Andres, who in turn needs to find a purpose to live. Mister's attempts at adoption of the troubled toddler convulses the plot tragically, althoughSaenz saves the mess from turning into a bloodbath by carefully delineating his characters. A vivid story about a community of scarred, deeply human souls within a callous, indifferent America.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780061981074
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 10/6/2009
  • Sold by: HARPERCOLLINS
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 352
  • Sales rank: 614,979
  • File size: 615 KB

Meet the Author

Benjamin Alire Sáenz is the author of In Perfect Light, Carry Me Like Water, and House of Forgetting, as well as the author of several children’s books. He won the American Book Award for his collection of poems Calendar of Dust. Sáenz is the chair of the creative writing department at the University of Texas-El Paso.

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Read an Excerpt

In Perfect Light

A Novel
By Benjamin Saenz

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 Benjamin Saenz
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060779209

Chapter One

Light and the Sadness of Dreams

Standing in the light, they look like salvation itself. Her son's hair, fine as strands of silk, his eyes as clear as water. Her husband's face is perfect as the flood of light. They are happy, at play, laughing, talking. The dream is always the same. Always, she is alone, apart, an exiled observer to their movements.

Always, she wakes when she hears them calling her name.

She lies in the darkness and steadies her breathing, trying to soothe herself. She can smell their clean sweat filling the air, sweet as summer rain. She runs her hand across the cool sheets -- then waits for the beating of her heart to slow. She thinks of Mister. Always, he was more yours than mine, Sam. She thinks of their last visit, how they both left angry. She can still taste that anger in the back of her tongue, as if the words she had spoken were as solid as a piece of bitter fruit.

She sits up slowly and places her feet on the cool wood floors. She walks toward the French doors and opens them. She breathes in the desert air.

Mister and me, Sam, we've lost our way. Sam. So many years he'd been dead. And still she woke uttering his name. A part of her expected him to answer.

Where They Found Him

I would hurt you for the simplest of reasons. That's what he said with his eyes. The streetlight and the empty city made him feel as if he were in a play. No one had come to watch him except for Dave. "Why'd you bail me out?" He kept his head bowed, his dark hair falling over his eyes.

"You called. I came."

"I shouldn't have called."

"I could throw you back, Andres."

"What the fuck. Go ahead."

"Where'd you learn to be so fucking ungrateful?"

Andres almost smiled. "Sorry, I'm fresh out of gratitude."

"Hating me is part of the whole deal -- is that it?"

Dave was like everyone else. He wanted to be loved. He did want to be loved. Andres almost laughed out loud. He closed his eyes, then opened them. His face was beginning to throb again, and he knew his bruises would be turning black and blue. A brown man turning blue. Like a chameleon. Ha, ha, fucking ha, God, tired, all he wanted to do was sleep, be in bed, dreaming of palo verdes in bloom, the yellow blossoms bursting in the blue sky like firecrackers. He wanted to dream soft hands rubbing his skin. He pictured himself melting beneath those hands, like butter or ice cream or anything else that wasn't human. He wanted to close his eyes and be somewhere else, Toronto Madrid Paris. He hated all this, his life, the days he lived, the nights he didn't sleep, arrests, police, questions being shot at him, phone calls to a lawyer he loved and hated and needed and hated and hated and God, and mostly he didn't want to feel this way, this thing, like the tick-tick of a bomb, like the click of a gun about to shoot a bullet. Like a chronic pain that was so much a part of his life that he almost didn't call it pain anymore. Maybe it was shame, this thing he felt. Partially, it must have been that. Sure. But it was other things, too. He knew that. And just then he hated himself for calling Dave at three-thirty in the morning. Call anytime. That's what he'd said. And so he'd called. And there he was, standing in front of him like some goddamned angel conjured up by a desperate prayer.

"I think we should get you to a doctor."

"Nothing open but ERs -- "

"C'mon. Let's have you looked at."

"Nothing's broken." He didn't know why he'd said that. It wasn't true. He lit a cigarette.

"You could at least offer me one of those."

Andres tossed him his pack of cigarettes. He watched Dave as he lit one. Manicured hands, no worker in them -- but he had his own way of being a man. Not a worker, but another kind of man. He had something, Dave did. Sure. Anyone could see that.

Dave stared at him and shook his head. "God, you look awful. What'd they do to your beautiful face?" He said that so easily. Beautiful face. He could say that to a man or to a woman, and the man and the woman would look up in gratitude. Because he said it as if he was the first human being who'd ever noticed. Maybe that's why so many people trusted him, because he had something in his voice, because he was well-spoken and had learned to modulate his speech -- just so -- and somehow, with that calm and controlled voice, he managed to rearrange the chaos of the world in such a way as to make it appear as if there really were a plan. Yeah, the whole fucking world trusted him because he was nice to look at and because he was a gringo, and that still mattered despite what anybody said or wanted to believe, the whole fucking world.

Finally, he decided to look at Dave. Why not lift his head? "I wasn't as drunk as they said."

"You told the officer you'd kill him if he touched you."

He didn't remember that. Sometimes, when the rage set in, he couldn't remember. Like alcohol blackouts. He shook his head. But it could have been true. "I don't like people I don't know to touch me. So that makes me weird?"

"The officer said you were crying, that you couldn't stop crying." He stopped. Waited. As if his statement were a question.

"Yeah, I was crying." As if admitting it were nothing. Nothing at all. Easy as pie. Easy as biting into a Hershey's candy bar. Tears. They're like seeds in a watermelon. Good for spitting out. "And in public, too. Crying in public -- now that's a fucking crime, isn't it?"

Continues...


Excerpted from In Perfect Light by Benjamin Saenz Copyright © 2005 by Benjamin Saenz.
Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted June 21, 2005

    bookrelayer: Susan P

    Review: Benjamin Saenz has written a book about life struggles that are faced by to very different people that meet each other through the legal system. The reader meets the main character Andres through an introduction of him resisting arrest from police officers and all the reader knows is that Andres is drunk at the time of the incident. Through Andres¿s lawyer¿s intervention he is introduced to a psychologist Grace Delagdo. Through Grace we learn that Andres has lived a very hard life and needs Grace¿s help to face all of his demons. Andres being a beautiful but hard Mexican man Grace teaches Andres that he can¿t hide and forget his past forever. Through the hardship of Andres losing his parents and to his brother Mando moving the family of four to Juarez Mexico, the reader learns that Andres has suffered more than loss of his parents. He has lost himself in a traumatic past and may not ever regain that little boy ¿Andy¿ that lives inside him. While Grace is hearing all of these incidents that Andres goes through the reader also learns the life Grace herself has led. Grace Delagdo is no saint. She too has suffered hardships especially the death of her husband Sam and the strained relationship she has with her son Mister. Grace learns she must face cancer and decide whether life is worth living. Through listening to Andres, Grace learns that it is better to live in the light than to face each day in the dark. As Grace tries to live in the light and share with Andres the importance of living in the light, the reader is shown what matters about all situations that pertain to each character. In Perfect Light Benjamin Saenz has the reader soaking up the light as the reader sees the hardships each character of the book faces. It¿s a book that if the reader chooses to listen to, can reflect on his or her own life and decide whether the reader wants to live in the light or in the dark. A profound book that keeps the reader on the edge of the cliff and can't step back from the edge until the end.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 18, 2005

    Poetic Masterpiece

    In this story we are introduced to characters that will stay with us long after this book is over. I would not say that anyone is the main character but I will say that if any of them were not apart of the story the whole story would change. This was a page turner and my school work has suffered but this book was just heart breaking. Heartbreaking in a real sense because you know that so many children are faced with these events. I also think that this book is giving a voice to all the children that are sold to prostitution rings in Mexico. This was a beautiful story and all to real. Another plus to this book is that even though all the character are faced with so much horrible things there is not a single person whinning and wondering why me. I was not able to put his book down! However the first 20 pages were very busy and not clear. Stick it out it will be worth it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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