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Take One Candle Light a Room: A novel Hardcover – October 12, 2010


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 336 pages
  • Publisher: Pantheon; 1 edition (October 12, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307379140
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307379146
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.2 x 1.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,674,079 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Straight's (A Million Nightingales) newest heroine, FX Antoine, keeps a distance from her family, her past, and even her present. Her one tie to home is her godson Victor, the child of her murdered best friend, whose involvement in a shooting sends him careening off the college path and potentially straight into a life of crime. He flees to Louisiana, where FX grew up, and is followed by her and her father, who wrestles with family secrets of his own. Their pursuit of Victor is marred by complications, not the least of which is the looming Hurricane Katrina, putting them all at risk. Straight again places readers in a rich and alien culture, a mélange of misfits and outlaws. FX is a detached protagonist, resisting her own family and culture, and readers will share her outsider's viewpoint. Straight's love of language is embedded in every page, though often at the expense of plot, and parts of the puzzle remain obscure in an otherwise rich and absorbing story. (Oct.) (c)
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

For some, despite passage of time or change of location, the past is very much alive. Such is the case for Fantine, a travel writer living in L.A., worlds apart from Rio Seco, the community she grew up in only an hour east. Even while roaming the globe and with skin so light that she can pass for “Argentinean. Or Andalusian. Maybe a tanned Angeleno,” Fantine is, and will always be, African American. On the fifth anniversary of the death of Glorette, the past comes rushing back. In luscious prose, author Straight expertly captures the complexities of Fantine’s identity. Having broken with her family to live in the city, Fantine straddles two worlds; now a tourist in her family home, she dresses and speaks different than her peers. As hurricane Katrina brews in the Gulf, a family crisis sends Fantine back to Rio Seco and then on to Louisiana, where, in 1958, her and Glorette’s mothers fled to escape a serial rapist who felt entitled to black girls, and where, generations earlier, Moinette, an ancestor, lived as a slave, as depicted in A Million Nightingales (2006). --Ben Segedin

More About the Author

Susan Straight was born in Riverside, California, where she still lives with her three daughters, nephew, extended family of over 200, and chickens. She has published seven novels - Aquaboogie (1990), I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots (1992), Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights (1994), The Gettin Place (1996), Highwire Moon (2001), A Million Nightingales (2006), and her latest, Take One Candle Light A Room (2010). Her short stories have been published in Zoetrope All-Story, McSweeneys, The Sun, Oxford American, O Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories, and other places. Her story "The Golden Gopher," published in Los Angeles Noir, won the Edgar Award in 2007. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Harpers, The Believer, Reader's Digest, Family Circle and other magazines.

Her website is www.SusanStraight.com, featuring An American Family, with ties to ancestors from Switzerland, Africa, Canada, Oklahoma, Colorado, and California.

Customer Reviews

Beautiful prose, wordsmithing.
S. Stine
Many strong characters I would like to meet again.
Susan Rae Oldfield
Or perhaps the subject matter is too depressing.
Richel Burkey-Harris

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

14 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Ann Weisgarber on November 20, 2010
Format: Hardcover
From the first page, I was captured by the voice of the narrator, Fantine Antoine, a woman who tries to escape the past but who is bound to it by memories and by her godson, Victor. When Victor, a young black man, gets into trouble, Fantine is the one person he turns to for help.

Straight's characters are tough and gritty; they are also complicated and defy stereotypes. The writing is rhythmic and beautiful even when Fantine's heart is breaking.

Straight is a brave writer who gives identity to people who are often ignored or forgotten. She lights a candle and speaks for those whose stories go untold.
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Format: Hardcover
Generations of painful history are distilled into a powerful tale of familial love and the deep roots of identity. Straight peels back the layers, the armor of noise and chaos, revealing the unbreakable bonds of blood that reach from Louisiana to California, where evil preys on the most vulnerable, floating like a miasma over a community inured to the violence of poverty and the nirvana of a crack pipe. In 1958, five young black girls are spirited away to California to protect them from a white man who plunders their innocence with impunity, one who stayed behind taking refuge in an armoire at the sound of tires on the gravel outside her home. In California, those five girls have children, close as sisters to Fantine Antoine, unmarried godmother to her friends' babies. As popular travel writer, FX Antoine, Fantine's love of language has fed her soul.

For the last five years, Fantine has mourned Glorette, sister of her heart, left dead in a dusty alley in Rio Seco, California. Glorette's son, Victor, has a bright and curious mind, the potential of a life like his godmother's, filled with the magic of words. After visiting Fantine with his friends Alphonse and Jazen, Victor suddenly finds his dreams in jeopardy in a senseless confrontation that leaves another young man dead on the streets of LA. The three young men are on the run, a bullet lodged in Victor's arm, a fever in his brain as he balances precariously on the edge of the future. A moment of reckoning looms, the story spinning into the vortex of family history from California to Louisiana, as the boys turn toward New Orleans and Katrina, Fantine and her father, Enrique speeding into a nightmare more treacherous than the hurricane, a desperate race charged with memory.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By De Las Montanas on April 7, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Susan Straight's language is always mind-blowingly beautiful, and she can tell a story like nobody's business. I tried to read TAKE ONE CANDLE LIGHT A ROOM slowly to savor the language and the feeling, but it was hard not to rush forward with the flow of story. This novel pierced me; it's rooted in my dreams. The very different landscapes of Rio Seco, California, and the bayou country of Louisiana are as fully realized as each character, and the question of how we can be there for the ones we love -- even as we move forward with the flow of our own lives -- is vitally addressed. Straight handles intimate banter as skillfully as she does big plot points (and LOTS happens in this novel -- it moves rapidly and drew me along), and she is fearless in addressing questions of racial, cultural, and regional identity. I don't know which moves me more: Straight's grace and felicity as a writer, or her courage. Highly recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Richel Burkey-Harris on November 27, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I'm a very avid reader of literary fiction, and I've been a fan of Susan Straight for a long time. However, I'd have to give a thumbs down to this novel. Straight seemed to plop us down in the middle of the main character's life without giving us any hint about who she was or how she had arrived there. Also, Straight tells the story almost exclusively with either interior or exterior dialogue, which I experienced as so idiosyncratic as to be almost incomprehensible. I found it impossible to identify with Fantoine because i couldn't figure out who in the heck she was.

I'm the first to admit that perhaps it was just too difficult for me, a white middle class woman, to identify with Fantoine's world. Or perhaps I was just too impatient with the first part of the book. Or perhaps the subject matter is too depressing. I'm willing to give it another shot at another time, but for now, I just don't have the time or patience to stick with a book that makes me work way too hard.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Barbara Ann Ortiz on April 10, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
My book club read this book. We felt it went around in circles with one event. ( Where's Victor?)The first few characters weren't deveolped enough for the story's flow. Subtitles would of been nice.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
As other reviewers have noted, getting into this book requires patience and dedication--and a willingness to 'feel' the dialog. Once I did that, the book was amazing. The LA to New Orleans journey of an extended family was simply spell binding.
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By Luana L. Carter on May 10, 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Another book by one of my favorite writers. As usual, held my attention throughout. Thoroughly enjoyed reading it, I would hjighly recommend it.
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By Commenterri on November 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I have read and loved all f Straight's other books, due primarily to her beautiful literary gift with imagery. Her talent remains clear in this book but I found it to be a frustrating read, especially so towards the end. The confusion for me was due to the French, the name confusion, and the belabored journey to the end which culminated in a quagmire of revelations further complicated by the aforementioned name confusion. I don't like books to end but this one seemed to take forever to end...not a favorite Straight read but I will await the next one.
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