Wednesday, August 19, 2015

What We're Reading: Short Stories

Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club is a collection of short stories by critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Saenz. These stories revolve around a cast of characters from different walks of life who experience love, friendship, and loss. What they all have in common is the setting--each character has ties to El Paso, Texas and Ciudad Juarez in Mexico. The Kentucky Club, a bar in Juarez, makes an appearance in each story, whether as a place visited by the characters or in memories uncovered from the past. In the first story, two men of Mexican descent meet in El Paso and fall in love, but one's attachment to (or obsession with) Juarez rips them apart. In another story, a brother and sister try to cope with the tumultuous relationship and early demise of their mysterious parents, each growing up to chase their own dragons.

Benjamin Alire Saenz received a Printz honor for his young adult novel Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, and a PEN/Faulkner award for this collection of short stories. Saenz, who is also a poet, infuses his fiction with the same emotional, lyrical quality that makes his books a pleasure to read. His treatment of family issues, love, and loss are beautiful, heartwarming, and many times heart-wrenching in his honest portrayals of pain. This honesty is what makes his readers feel close to his characters despite the socioeconomic, cultural, or gender/sexual divide that might exist between the reader and the characters. The ability to bridge this divide is what makes Saenz remarkable. He is also an author who appeals to a diverse readership, from romance, to literary fiction, to short stories.

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