Book Reviews

The Last Cigarette on Earth by Benjamin Alire Saenz – Book Review


“I was a man who had lived in drought for so long that what I desired most was rain. But the rain never came.”

This book of poetry was heart-wrenching. Saenz always writes the most profound words that create the most impressive sentences. I read this slowly because I didn’t want to feel overwhelmed. There’s always so much emotion packed into his poetry, and the subjects are never easy. But I really loved every moment I spent reading it.

“How many people can you love anyway? Love may be infinite but the human heart has its limits. That’s why they’ve built a wall between us and Mexico.”

This collection is full of personal accounts, including a drug addiction. I was surprised to hear Saenz talk about this in person during a book reading, but I was curious as well. I think it’s really brave of him to write about such a difficult topic. I’m glad he did. He’s mentioned many times how therapeutic writing is for him. I’ve felt the same way.

“One day, an angel will arrive to lead me into paradise. I will send the angel away.”

Saenz also wrote about the border between the U.S. and Mexico, which is a topic he often writes about. I’ve read so many of his books: fiction, short stories, poetry, children’s book, you name it. And in so many of them, he’s talked about the dangers and terrible deaths that happen in Juarez. But it never gets easier reading about it. Mexico is my country. I hate to be reminded of its cruelty.

“Work is a word he knew. It was what he was born for. Work his future, his fate, his destiny.”

I was also really touched to read about Saenz’s relationships. He wrote about a few important men in his life. I loved his raw honesty. But there was also a not-so-subtle guilt throughout that comes from his sexual orientation. I don’t know if I’m interpreting it right because I’m not him, but it hurts to think he holds guilt because he’s attracted to men. I know he was a priest once, and that religion isn’t very accepting. But there is such a thing as accepting your sexuality while maintaining your faith and/or religion. That just really hit close to home.

“To think that once my love for you was fire and now my heart has leapt beyond desire.”

I think it’s obvious how much I enjoyed this book. It left me thinking, but that’s a good thing. I’d recommend Saenz’s poetry to anyone. His poetry is beyond beautiful.

4,5 stars


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