I cried sad tears. I cried happy tears.
I swear, one day, Benjamin Alire Saenz will be the death of me.
Going into this, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect. Benjamin Alire Saenz is my favorite author. I’ve read most of his novels, short stories, and poetry. I keep coming back to his writing looking for heartfelt stories with realistic characters going through real-life issues, and he always delivers. Another important factor about his stories is that they always revolve around Mexican-American people, and that is incredibly significant to me, as a Mexican woman. Still, some of his previous works have not really impressed me, such as Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood and He Forgot to Say Goodbye. These are the last novels I’d read by him, and I figured maybe I wouldn’t be able to connect with his older works as much as I have with his newer ones, such as Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club and Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I was wrong.
In Perfect Light is one of the most beautiful, carefully crafted works of fiction I have ever had the pleasure of reading. This story is painful, so painful, but so worth the pain. I’ve noticed this trend in Saenz’s novels, that of sorrowful journeys leading to a hopeful, brighter ending, and that is just what this one offered. I love these type of stories the most.
“Maybe it’s better if people think you’re stupid or slow. They don’t expect anything. I live in a world that doesn’t expect anything of me because it’s already decided I don’t matter.”
We follow the very different lives of Andres and Grace. The former is a young man who keeps getting into trouble with the law, and who carries the weight of a terrible past on his shoulders. And the latter is a woman who struggles to show her affection to her son, and debates on the right choice to make regarding her new circumstances. Both of these characters come together through counseling, and we learn about both of their heartache.
I wasn’t kidding when I said I cried. At one point, this book seriously took my breath away. Everything that happened took me by surprise, and it felt like it was happening to real people I cared about. I wanted to reach into the pages and make things better for everyone. I couldn’t believe how much Saenz managed to hurt these poor characters, but it never got to be that bad. It kept me hopeful throughout. I usually hate sad books, but this wasn’t just another sad story. This felt genuine. The hardships shown were not in vain; they were there for a reason, and the conclusion was worth getting to.
“He walked into his apartment, opened a window, and looked out into the night. He remembered the boy who used to count stars.”
I could sit here and praise Saenz, praise this book and every single word written in it, but I have no further words to describe how much I loved it, and how much it means to me. I think everyone could take something from this novel.