Benjamin Saenz's forthcoming book (June from Simon and Schuster), HE FORGOT TO SAY GOODBYE, is a quiet sort of story. Both of the main characters, Ram and Jake, are reflective, thinking about all that is happening in their young lives, wondering how to move forward. They are connected by many threads that Saenz weaves effortlessly in this novel. They attend the same school though they do not run in the same circles. Neither of them has a circle. Ram's best friend is Alejandra. Jake is a loner; his closest relationship is with his housekeeper, Rosie. The real connection is that neither young man has ever known his father. This might seem a tenuous thread, but Saenz has taken great care to create this fragile bond that gradually strengthens as the story progresses. Ram and Jake take turns in telling their stories in brief entries.
I must admit it has taken me some time to read this book. It simply would not be rushed. Richie Partington commented in the same thing in his review of the book a few weeks ago. I concur: Saenz's skill with language is such that it makes me as a reader slow down to savor the sentences. Like Ram and Jake, I want time to reflect on what is happening, to think about situations and events and emotions. Though set in El Paso, terrain familiar to me, I think the setting could be just about anywhere there is a place like Dizzy Land (Ram's name for his neighborhood). How many like Ram and Jake inhabit our classrooms? My guess is that there are plenty. Many readers will see themselves in these two young men who manage to confront the demons in their lives and survive.