“That’s the way it was when you loved someone. You took them everywhere you went — whether they were alive or not.”
Benjamin Alire Saenz is known for writing beautiful novels. Most people know him only for his masterpiece (and my personal favorite) Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. During the past couple of years, I’ve made it my duty to read most of his books. I’ve read his adult and young adult fiction, poetry collections, short story collections, and children’s books. Each and every story has brought something new and sweet to my life. And The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is no exception.
I struggled with this book. I’m not sure why. I picked it up the day after I graduated from college, hoping that with my suddenly acquired free time, I’d finally get to read it. But then life got in the way, and I fell into a reading slump, and the book was pushed aside, forgotten. Every time I picked it up, I hated it. I hated the writing, the characters, the lack of plot (which is unusual for me), and I doubted my love for Saenz’s writing, after all this time.
But I finished the second half of the book in two days, and I smiled, laughed, and cried a few times. I underlined all my favorite passages and drew hearts on the margins during all the best scenes. I grew to love the wonderful characters, and appreciate the themes and messages so carefully woven into the story. I understood the beauty of it. And it was, as usual, so easy to relate to.
Saenz writes stories with an emotional punch. You never see it coming, but when it comes, it comes hard. That’s how I felt while reading about Salvador, a young Caucasian boy raised by a gay Mexican man. Although Vicente is not Sal’s bio dad, he’s the only father he’s ever known and loved. But Sal knows nothing about his bio dad, and he fears those genes he inherited are changing him. Then there’s Samantha, or Sam, Sal’s best friend, who is practically his sister. She’s strong and stubborn in the best ways. I loved the way she expressed herself and took care of Sal. And of course, there’s Fito, who joins their little group to make it better. Fito is a gay boy who comes from a bad family, who doesn’t have time to worry about trivial things because he’s very set on going to college. I loved him with all of my heart, and I was so glad I got to meet him.
I could sit here and try to explain the story, but that would be pointless. I think all that needs to be said is that this story is about familial love, strong friendships, staying still and moving on. Most of all, it’s about coping with loss, which is never easy. It’s about appreciating the good people around you, and seeing them for who they really are. It’s about life in the border town of El Paso, and what it means to belong, and how you can see the world in a new light every day.
This is why Saenz continues to be one of my favorite authors. He writes stories to remember. And his stories always find their way to my heart.