Between Heaven and Hereby Susan Straight
Glorette Picard is dead. Her body was found in the alley behind a taqueria, half-hidden by wild tobacco trees, but no onenot Sidney, who knew she worked that alley, not her son Victor who memorizes SAT words to avoid the guys selling rock out of dryers in the Launderland, not her uncle Enrique, who everyone knows will be the one to hunt down her killersaw her die. As the close-knit residents of Rio Seco, California react to Glorette’s murder, it becomes clear that her life and death are deeply entangled with the dark history of the city, and the untouchable beauty that, finally, killed her.
Just as Faulkner spent years populating his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Susan Straight has captivated readers with her rich portrait of Rio Seco in novels such as A Million Nightingales and Take One Candle Light a Room. Rio Seco is a town deep in the groves, heavy with the sweet tang of citrus and the smell from the old morgue; it’s a place some will never leave. In Between Heaven and Here, the final novel in her Rio Seco trilogy, Susan Straight tells a story of unforgettable intimacy and intensity.
The mysterious murder of a hooker kicks off this exquisitely wrought final installment (after Take One Candle Light a Room) of Straight's trilogy, set in fictional Rio Seco, California. When Glorette Picard's longtime admirer, Sidney, discovers her body in a shopping cart in an alley behind a taquería, he fears the wrath or indifference of the police, and so claims her corpse as his responsibility, setting of a storm of consequences. Left behind to weather the world on his own is Glorette's young son, Victor, who memorizes SAT vocabulary words to drown out the crack dealers, and her uncle Enrique, who takes it upon himself to avenge her death. Straight plunges readers into a whirlwind of dialects, drugs, derelict homes, and delinquent locals as she weaves together the story of Glorette's life and death, while addressing weighty and timely issues like race, language, and the socioeconomically disenfranchised. Straight deftly avoids clichés and easy outs, and her refusal to vilify or sanctify the numerous members of her cast allows the experiences of each to resonate powerfully.
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"It is only the rarest of novels that cry for a sequel, the most unusual of stories that at once satisfies and leaves the reader aching for more. Susan Straight's remarkable Take One Candle Light A Room is such a novel. And she has satisfied our desires in Between Heaven and Here, a magnificent novel, that manages to be at once unflinchingly real and transcendently beautiful. Susan Straight is one of the very best American writers. If you haven't read her, you're in for a delight and an awakening. If you have, then you're probably as thrilled as I am that she has taken us back to Rio Seco."
"Susan Straight finds LA’s secret heart in Between Heaven and Here and with a sleight of hand only the masters have, she creates an alley, a neighborhood, a history that is as rich and tragic as any Shakespearean tale."
"Straight employs glorious language and a riveting eye for detail to create a fully realized, totally believable world."
Kirkus (Starred Review)
"Straight plunges readers into a whirlwind of dialects, drugs, derelict homes, and delinquent locals as she weaves together the story of Glorette's life and death, while addressing weighty and timely issues like race, language, and the socioeconomically disenfranchised. Straight deftly avoids clichés and easy outs, and her refusal to vilify or sanctify the numerous members of her cast allows the experiences of each to resonate powerfully."
Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)
"Despite the tragedies that befall them, Straight’s characters still recognize the splendor of the natural world, from the pepper trees behind the taqueria to the orange blossoms in the alley scenting the midnight air. . . Straight’s group portrait of this community ought to be recognized as a national artistic treasure. Her focus on this singular place magnifies the hopes and disappointments of so many Americans, so many humans on earth."
The Boston Globe
"And yet, in a novel set in a world in which people are too often stripped of dignity, Straight has accomplished the larger act of ennobling her characters. She sees them clearly and gives them a striking presence on the page."
The New York Times
"Straight, a 2001 National Book Award finalist for Highwire Moon, has the ability to create straightforward contemporary voices, no pun intended. She does not subscribe to the maximalist school of over-the-top characters, yet she can still dramatize the complex, jagged nature of American culture today."
The Daily Beast
"Susan Straight has remarkable range as a writer. Her voice can be elegant in the rhythms and vocabulary of her narrative, yet also blunt and raw in dialogue... Her work is so intensely alive in its movement, action, and in the speech of her characters that reading it is almost like being caught in the center of a storm: exhausting but exhilarating at the same time."
"How can a novel that is essentially the story of a dead prostitute prove so uplifting? It must be some kind of black magic that only Susan Straight can work . . . And by the end of this gorgeous and heart-wrenching novel, this family will be your people, too."
The Dallas Morning News
"Straight’s writing pulls the reader into a world that is both surreal and yet inescapably concrete, ugly and beautiful all at once. She binds the multifaceted perspectives together into a narrative that is fragmented but still very much whole."BUSTLE
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Meet the Author
Susan Straight was born in Riverside, California, and still lives there with her family. She has published seven novels and two children’s books. Her short stories have appeared in Zoetrope, The Ontario Review, The Oxford American, The Sun, Black Clock, and other magazines. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Harpers, The Nation, Salon, The Believer, and other magazines. She has been the recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship, a Lannan Prize, an Edgar Award, and an O. Henry Award, as well as a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and the National Book Award. She teaches creative writing at the University of California, Riverside.
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