By Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Five To-Be-Read Piles =
Add This One to Your To-Be-Read Pile!
Reviewer: Liz Merton
Winner of the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction, Kentucky Club is another stay-with-you-long-after-you-finish-it book. Cinco Puntos Press out of El Paso produces a lot of great work (check back soon for my review of the 2020 International Thriller Writers Thriller Awards Finalist The Bird Boys from Cinco Puntos). In Kentucky Club, we get seven short stories, stories that take us to Juárez and beyond, break our hearts when we lose a lover to urban violence, and leave us empty with the thought of chasing the dragon . . . in all its forms. The pages glow with curt prose, with abuse in so many forms, with dreams (broken, lost, failed, found, waiting), and (of course) with Avenida Benito Juárez’s Kentucky Club, a place where dreams like that—we’re told so well—begin and end.
The Kentucky Club may (or may not) be the birthplace of the margarita. According to Sáenz, it gives people a good place to go to remember and to forget, as discussed in a TexasMonthly piece from 2013 that offers some thoughts worth considering . . . on Ciudad Juárez, violence, poetry, and faith. Sáenz’s website likewise deserves a look for those interested in his projects and the topics his writing explores. Once a priest inspired by activists like Dorothy Day, Sáenz seems to have led a lot of lives, lives that have given him experiences, a certain sagacity if that's not weird to say, that he also seems to have translated onto the pages of his work . . . to the benefit of anyone interested in the human experience.