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Tuesday, December 13, 2011
Red Glass by Laura Resau
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 .
I....I don't know how to adequetly express how I feel about this book. It's amazing and fantastic and so impressive. Laura Resau certainly has made me enjoy her novels, and I have read the majority of them. But I read Red Glass last. I had liked the sweeping, isolated mountain setting of an indengenious culture in What the Moon Saw ; the racially-divided Ecuador of The Queen of Water; and the globe-hopping scenes of the Notebook series (Mexico in The Indigo Notebook and France in The Ruby Notebook . But Red Glass, with its fantastic characters, lovingly crafted plot, and character arcs, and the setting of small villages in Mexico and towns in Guetamala, captivated me the most.
The story is about Sophie, a sixteen year old girl who's afraid of everything, from her mother and stepfather being murdered to being robbed by strange figures on the train and germs found in resturants. She lives with her parents and her eccentric great-aunt Dika, a refugee from Bosnia. She constantly is afraid, getting upset if her parents are minutes late or if someone sneezes. One night, they get a late-night phone call from the Border Patrol. Seven illegal immigrants, crossing the desert from Mexico to Tuscon, New Mexico, have been found dead. One young boy no older than six or seven survived, with Sophie's stepfather's buisness card in his pocket. No one knows who the boy is, and so the Border Patrol asks Sophie's family to foster the boy, named Pedro. Sophie quickly nicknames him Principito, or "Little Prince."
But a year passes, and Pedro remains stoic. No one can get him to engage in activities, get happy or excited. He behaves, but won't interact. All he wants to do is sleep with the chickens outside, no matter how many beds and mattresses they try to find him. After a while, Sophie's parents manage to contact Pedro's remaining family in a village in Mexico. Pedro's family decides that Sophie, Dika, Dika's boyfriend Mr. Lorenzo, and Lorenzo's son Angel will go visit Pedro's old village and see if that helps. Sophie is afraid of the dangers of Mexico -- corrupt cops, dangerous food, drug dealers -- but agrees to go for her Principito.
Golly, the characters are amazing. Resau fleshed them all out, with backstories and realistic dialogue, actions, and arcs. Dika is a refugee from Bosnia escaping civil war; Mr. Lorenzo and Angel are illegal immigrants in search of jewels; and Pedro is a small boy who spent days crossing a treacherous desert. The character arcs are fantastic. Sophie truly changes, first in subtle ways, and then in larger ways that echo loudly and don't make it seem like Resau was just trying to show over and over again that yes, yes, Sophie had changed . All of the characters are strong and impressive and amazing. Dika completely breaks the boundaries of "old fat grandma"; Angel is a sweet, caring boy that makes a fantastic love interest; and Mr. Lorenzo is a sweet man straddled between two cultures.
The setting is also fantastic. Resau vividly describes markets and streets and smells and foods with the eye of someone who's been there, seen that (she's a travel writer and English as a Second Language -- primiarily with Mexican students -- teacher). Everything is vivid in your mind, and you can truly tell that Resau took time to learn the language, took time to learn the people and culture.
And now the writing. Oh my god, the writing. Resau's words flow off the page, flowery and beautiful without being dramatic. The writing is goregous and sweet and still sounds like Sophie's voice, a teenage girl in two cultures and hiding from everything. I paused and reread every sentence, reading it for the cadence, the beauty. It was more than just a sentence or a predicate -- it was a beauty. Resau's a fantastic writer in all her books, and she's been very well critically accliamed with plenty of starred reviews. But Red Glass took my breath away.
The plot isn't predictable, with both funny (Sophie gets hit on by a drunk cop at a picnic) and heartwarming (Pablo seeing his grandmother again). You truly care for all the characters, and hope and wonder they're doing okay. The climax grabs your heartstrings in the end, but you understand the decisions and character motives with what happens in the climax. Resau has crafted a brilliant, rich plot, and managed to even tie Saint-Expery and The Little Prince into the novel's six parts.
I highly recommend this novel and the rest of Resau's books. They have fantastic writing and immerse you in cultures you never knew. A great read that will appeal to contemporary fans, romance fans, those who want to be immersed in another world, and people interested in cultures and geography. Highly recommended.