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Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club Paperback – October 30, 2012


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 180 pages
  • Publisher: Cinco Puntos Press; First Edition edition (October 30, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1935955322
  • ISBN-13: 978-1935955320
  • Product Dimensions: 1 x 6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (58 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #278,103 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

The publisher describes these seven excellent stories as being about borders. That is certainly true as far as it goes, but it is equally true that these stories have even more to do with boundaries—the boundaries people set to protect themselves from physical or emotional harm, the ones that people cross in order to survive, or the ones they cross to intrude or intervene in someone else’s life. Sàenz’s tales are about the arbitrary boundaries that society sets and the ones children build against a world they don’t understand. In today’s political climate, one that is awash in ideology surrounding national borders, Sàenz’s all-too-human characters transcend political polarization despite living within it. A versatile writer who has won major fellowships and awards, especially for his young adult and children’s titles, Sàenz writes prose that is tender, occasionally fierce, and always engaging. Read every word of his stories lest you miss some clever twist, some subtle irony, some gentle nuance of poetic imagery that he has labored to create. --Donna Chavez

Review

"Sáenz's moving collection of short stories hinges on the intergenerational clientele of the titular borderland watering hole just south of the U.S.-Mexican divide on Avenida Juárez…there's much to enjoy in these gritty, heartfelt stories. — Publishers Weekly

"Seven excellent stories … [by] a versatile writer … Sàenz writes prose that is tender, occasionally fierce, and always engaging. Read every word of his stories lest you miss some clever twist, some subtle irony, some gentle nuance of poetic imagery that he has labored to create." — Booklist

"Seven stunningly evocative short stories … a haunting tableau of characters wrestling with the boons and burdens of existence … Saenz, with these masterfully hewn stories, presents this hardscrabble yet tenacious city as beautiful in its contradictions, disquieting in its ambiguities, and heartbreaking in its quotidianness. Filtered through this book are the lives of its singular people: doomed, broken, resourceful, and, above all else, faithful—to the city and to the parts they play in its intricate dimensions." — Texas Books in Review

"Though the prolific Benjamin Alire Sáenz has been writing books in every genre for the past two decades, Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club is only his second short-story collection. But the wait was definitely worth it … [The story "He Has Gone to Be with the Women"] is nothing short of a masterpiece … In one story, a school counselor says the following about his troubled charges: "They came to me with a thirst in their eyes, a thirst, such a thirst and I knew that I could never give them the rain they deserved, the rain they so desperately needed." That might as well be The Kentucky Club speaking, since every protagonist in this heartbreaking collection of stories finds his way to a confession stool at the bar. They find no solutions to their ills, just a sensitive ear that has heard it all before but is willing to listen once again." — Rigoberto González, former president of the executive board of directors of the National Book Critics Circle, special to the El Paso Times

More About the Author

Benjamin Alire Sáenz was born in 1954 in his grandmother's house in Old Picacho, a small farming village in the outskirts of Las Cruces, New Mexico in 1954. He was the fourth of seven children and was raised on a small farm near Mesilla Park. Later, when the family lost the farm, his father went back to his former occupation--being a cement finisher. His mother worked as a cleaning woman and a factory worker. During his youth, he worked at various jobs--painting apartments, roofing houses, picking onions, and working for a janitorial service. He graduated from high school in 1972, and went on to college and became something of a world traveler. He studied philosophy and theology in Europe for four years and spent a summer in Tanzania. He eventually became a writer and professor and moved back to the border--the only place where he feels he truly belongs. He is an associate professor in the MFA creative writing program at the University of Texas at El Paso, the only bilingual creative writing program in the country. Ben Saenz considers himself a fronterizo, a person of the border. He is also a visual artist and has been involved as a political and cultural activist throughout his life. Benjamin Sáenz­ is a novelist, poet, essayist and writer of children's books. His young adult novel Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood was selected as one of the Top Ten Best Books for Young Adults in 2005, and his prize-winning bilingual picture books for children--A Gift from Papá Diego and Grandma Fina and Her Wonderful Umbrellas--have been best-selling titles. A Perfect Season for Dreaming is Ben's newest bilingual children's book which has received two starred reviews, one from Publishers Weekly and one from Kirkus Reviews. He has received the Wallace Stegner Fellowship, the Lannan Fellowship and an American Book Award. His first book of poems, Calendar of Dust, won an American Book Award in 1992. That same year, he published his first collection of short stories, Flowers for the Broken. In 1995, he published his first novel, Carry Me Like Water (Hyperion), and that same year, he published his second book of poems, Dark and Perfect Angels. Both books were awarded a Southwest Book Award by the Border Area Librarians Association. In 1997, HarperCollins published his second novel, The House of Forgetting. Ben is a prolific writer whose more recent titles include In Perfect Light (Rayo/Harper Collins), Names on a Map (Rayo/Harper Collins), He Forgot to Say Goodbye (Simon and Schuster), and two books of poetry Elegies in Blue (Cinco Puntos Press), and Dreaming the End of War (Copper Canyon Press).

Customer Reviews

What a charming writer, and a great story teller!
Marisa Sanchez
This was an absolutely fantastic (if too short) story collection which captivated me from the very first sentence, moved me, and made me want more from every story.
Larry Hoffer
I read the book over seven days, a story each night.
J. Koester

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

17 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J. Koester on February 7, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Amazing. This was a book of seven short stories. It was such an entertaining read that I probably could have read the whole book in a day or two. But each story was so powerful, after each one I just put the book down and thought about it for a while. I read the book over seven days, a story each night.

This book hasn't received many rave reviews, so after each amazing chapter, I found myself contemplating why that was. I decided that perhaps the book was too melodramatic or not subtle enough for some, and indeed, after I finished, I sought out some reviews and that does appear to be the complaint. What can I say? I'm not a big fan of subtle. Life isn't subtle.

Just before Kentucky Club, I read the critics' short-story favorite "Tenth of December" by George Saunders. I gave it four stars. It had some great stories, but a couple of clunkers. "Kentucky Club" had seven great stories, and I dare say all seven hit me in the gut more than "Tenth." Great stuff.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Joanne Austin on December 10, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed reading a book about the area in which I live. I've known some people who could have been the characters in this excellent written book. I was so compelled by the stories that I read it quickly. Sometimes I felt like an observer, even feeling the pain of certain characters.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Epi on February 14, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I have only read four of these but they are well thought out, and as I finish each one I spend a good 20-30 minutes reflecting on each. Highly recommended.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By mrs. V.L. Lucas on October 8, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This book was pure poetry. It is
filled with empathy, is soul binding and one
of the most brillant books I have read in a long time.
I have ordered another of his books, and become
a fan.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Harold Scott on July 23, 2013
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Although it is an interesting way to write a book, that is, pick one central person and invent several stories around that person, I did not like, or enjoy, the stories. They all had the same person (ok) but also had the same core; sex,. homosexuality, failed parents, excessive drinking. After the first few stories the reader knew what was coming next.
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5 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Chris Bram on March 23, 2013
Format: Paperback
This is a powerful collection of short stories about men who love men. These are tales about love, sex, and death--and love after death--El Paso, Juarez, rotten fathers, and people helping each other. The prose is terse and clench-jawed but it never feels mannered because there's so much strong emotion behind it. Saenz is tough and angry, yet also tender. My favorite stories are "Sometimes the Rain" about two boys who become friends in high school (it's like a richer, more expressive, less passive "Brokeback Mountain"), "Chasing the Dragon" (about a brother and sister, one addicted to sex, the other to drugs) and "The Hurting Game" (a high school guidance counselor and a junkie lawyer become sex buddies). "Brother in Another Language" and "He's Gone to be with Be with the Women" are awfully good too.

I didn't know about this book until it won the Pen Faulkner Prize this week and then I stumbled on it in the library. I wolfed it down in two days. It knocked me out.
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Global nomad on October 24, 2013
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I had so wanted this book to be a poetic expose on the unique culture that is El Paso/Juarez, a collection of searing human stories set among the cross border ambiguities and contradictions. While the writing was first rate, the stories were not. Repetitive themes of parental abandonment and homosexual expression diluted the book. The repetition of themes, not necessarily the subjects themselves. Add to that the rather disappointing fact that very few of the stories had anything to do at all with the iconic Kentucky Club!

This book was well written, true, but it seems to have been written by the American El Pasoan who only sees the history of violence in Juarez, refusing to see through the dark curtain into the contemporary influences and issues that COULD have made this so darned good.

Sorry, Mr. Saenz. A+ on style, C- on content.
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By Michael Byrd on August 29, 2014
Format: Kindle Edition
I almost gave this short story collection five stars. I simply loved the first five stories. The simplicity of the style was poetic; the characters and situations were realistic. There's a poignancy to the articulation of the complexity of family dynamics and personal woundedness.

But then I got to "Chasing the Dragon". I hated that story. The writing seemed flat; the story was too long. I just didn't care about the characters as much. There was potential with the aunts and uncles, bu they were off stage too much. The sister had a predictable end.

And the last story? the voice comes back a little, but it felt sentimental, generally.

So...yes, I would recommend this to others. I'll read some of the stories again and again. Just the last two I'll gladly forget.
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