Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Saenz

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From the multi-award-winning author of Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe comes a gorgeous new story about love, identity, and families lost and found.

Sal used to know his place with his adoptive gay father, their loving Mexican-American family, and his best friend, Samantha. But it’s senior year, and suddenly Sal is throwing punches, questioning everything, and realizing he no longer knows himself. If Sal’s not who he thought he was, who is he?

This humor-infused, warmly humane look at universal questions of belonging is a triumph.

Source: advance e-galley provided by publisher in exchange for an honest review

My daughter has stars in her eyes every time she mentions Aristotle and Dante Discover the Universe. It's one of her favourite books and one she never hesitates to recommend to people. It's with this in mind that I wanted to read this latest one from Sáenz.

The Inexplicable Logic of Life explores what it's like being a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. For easy-going Sal who begins to observe the subtle changes underway during his senior year, that uncertainty manifests itself in violence.

Sal feels a shift has begun after hitting back at a schoolmate who called his father by a gay slur. His uncharacteristic outburst has him concerned and he doesn't know how to articulate it. His father who has to be the most even-tempered person in existence is the steady rock that he relies on. His philosophical approach to life is calming though it's not enough to ease whatever undercurrent of self-doubt he's experiencing. His grandmother's ailing health has him feeling that there's too much changing at once. His newfound anger also makes him wonder if it's a question of nature versus nurture; that he could be becoming more like his anonymous biological father than the loving, patient and kind-hearted father whom he admires and who has raised him as his own flesh and blood. All of these doubts make him question his place in his family and who he is becoming.

Reading about this boy turning into a man made me realize that these changes can evolve subtly without even knowing. Sal doesn't give himself enough credit though. He's actually rather astute about human nature and understands quite a bit. However, he's convinced that he's not ready to face his future because he has been sheltered. He's right up to a certain point. What he has yet to realize is that his big heart has prepared him for far more than he is aware of. Sal is also blessed to have the family he has. I wished that they could adopt me! As a quiet observer he sees how each family member demonstrates their love in their own way, whether it be through art, food or the generosity of giving money. As he ponders more about his own history, he reexamines his relationship with his adoptive father.

This is a special story told with such sweetness. There's a connection there, something that a reader can identify with easily. Even when things are looking bleak there's a strong presence of unconditional love holding keeping Sal from fully breaking. At one point I even paused my reading to text my daughter at school to say, "I get it". It made her so happy. It's a wonderful read that ends beautifully and simply put, you'll fall for this absolute treasure!

~ Bel

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