Find it at a local indie!
- Why I read it: Central America, panic attacks, Mexican food, border troubles, immigration, shades of gray
- Disclosure: Had a copy passed on to me by Lyn Miller-Lachmann. Thanks, Lyn!
ONE NIGHT SOPHIE and her parents are called to a hospital where Pedro, 6-year-old Mexican boy, is recovering from dehydration. Crossing the border into Arizona with a group of Mexicans and a coyote, or guide, Pedro and his parents faced such harsh conditions that the boy is the only survivor. Pedro comes to live with Sophie, her parents, and Sophie's Aunt Dika, a refugee of the war in Bosnia. Sophie loves Pedro - her Principito, or Little Prince. But after a year, Pedro's surviving family in Mexico makes contact, and Sophie, Dika, Dika's new boyfriend, and his son must travel with Pedro to his hometown so that he can make a heartwrenching decision.
Call me naive, but I've always wondered why immigration (illegal and otherwise) across our southern border, especially from Mexico, is a political issue and not a humanitarian one. Red Glass perfectly illustrates why. Its opening scene is so visceral and heartbreaking, especially for me as an older sister, that I almost put the book down, unsure if I would be able to take it. Of course, I didn't put it down, and for that I'm glad. Red Glass is the kind of book that can be life-changing.
The first reason? Our heroine. As someone who (as I've mentioned) suffered from anxiety for years, I always love reading about characters with anxiety and reminisce on how far I've come. Sophie's panic attacks are perhaps the most realistic I've ever read, but Resau also seems to have an intimate understanding of where realism ends and magical realism begins, and we know from page one that Sophie's journey will be a parallel to our own. Everything about the character rings true, and in the YA magical realism genre where the quirky so often becomes the absurd and incomprehensible, it's a good thing we have that to cling to. In fact, nearly all of her characters are bastions of normal in the face of the crazy, and the ones that aren't - Aunt Dika in particular - are charming beneath the bizarre.
The second reason is Resau's prose, which can only be described as sensuous, and hot - Mexican border hot. Desert hot. Jungle hot. Heated conversations hot. And sexy hot when it comes to everything Ángel, of course. As with The Indigo Notebook (Resau's later release, which I read and reviewed before this one), I read Red Glass during one of our many cold snaps this spring here in MN, and found myself literally crying because I wanted to be within the pages of this book so badly. I believe the last time that happened was Harry Potter, so believe me when I say that this book has some of the most evocative descriptions I've ever read.
The third reason (of many, though the last I'll list) is the author's absolute refusal to pull punches, which I also remember from The Indigo Notebook. Every time I started to pull away, worried I was going to get saddled with a happy ending I didn't want and the story didn't need, I got a twist that not only pulled me straight back in, but also made such perfect sense in hindsight that I couldn't believe I hadn't seen it coming.
In short: it's brilliant, and as I said in the first paragraph, life-changing. If The Indigo Notebook was good, Red Glass was excellent, and it kept me thinking (and wanderlusting) long after the final page was turned. There aren't easy answers to its conclusion, just like there aren't any easy answers to the issues of immigration, poverty, war, and intercultural relations in general, but it's got enough sweet and romantic moments to make me want to re-read it, too.
And, leaving my Professional Reviewer persona behind me for a moment, I will share that first on that re-read list is every scene with Ángel in it. Nice Latino boy without a machismo complex a la What Can't Wait? Awww yeah!
If you couldn't tell, this was one of the books that majorly brought me out of my Mean Reviewer blues. It's beautiful in every way, and I can't wait to get my hands on more from Laura Resau. Five out of five stars.