Southwest Books of the Year
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- Everything Begins & Ends at the Kentucky Club
- By Benjamin Alire Saenz. Cinco Puntos Press. 222 pp. $16.95.
- The eponymous bar of this Pen/Faulkner Award-winning collection of seven short stories is located a few blocks south of the Rio Grande. It is the nexus for the otherwise unconnected souls who drift back and forth across the border between El Paso and Juarez, searching for answers, longing for love, and sometimes just looking for trouble. Saenz’s stories, rendered elegantly and with compassion, tell of interior lives that are rich with complexities, restricted psychologically and emotionally by internal boundaries that bind and suffocate. Although we struggle as individuals, our need to break free of the borders that confine us is universal. These are stories to savor, both for their grace and for the truths they reveal. [ ]
- The Kentucky Club of this collection of Borderland short stories is a once-elegant Juárez bar, the Tiffany dome and gleaming wood and glass of which remind one character of a church. "[I]sn't that what bars are,” he muses, "churches for people who'd lost their faith?" That sense of loss, of emotional isolation, and of the yearning to connect are common to Sáenz's seven thoughtful, sculpted stories: an aging writer doesn’t know what he’s missing until he gains—and then loses—a lover; the grown children of wealthy, negligent parents seek emotional connection through risky behavior; a boy raised in Juárez is dumped unwanted on his American father’s doorstep and needs to negotiate his fractured world. At some point, they all pass through the Kentucky Club. And in his spare, luminous poet's voice, this one-time priest grants each a measure of redemption. [ ]