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Take One Candle Light a Room: A Novelby Susan Straight
Synopses & Reviews
“YOU A LIE ” someone shouted from the alleyway near where I walked downtown, where homeless men had congregated, and it sent me directly to my childhood. “You a damn lie ”
That was how people accused each other back in Rio Seco. Not “That’s a lie,” or “You’re a liar.”
You were the lie.
“I ain’t no lie, you drunk-ass—”
The shouts faded when I left the hot sidewalk that smelled faintly of beer and pee and onions, off Spring Street, and went into the lobby of a beautifully restored building that used to be a toy factory. Two people were already in the elevator. The young woman held the door for me and smiled.
“Hi, I’m Donovan,” she said. “I’m the publicist’s assistant. What a great building ”
“It used to be like a Third World country on this block,” the man said. Perfect pressed shirt. Artful stubble. He nodded. “Jeremiah. I’m one of Arthur’s lawyers.”
They looked at me expectantly. “FX Antoine,” I said.
Donovan, whose hair was a shining auburn bob, said, “Oh, I loved your last article in Vogue It was on Belize, right?”
Jeremiah looked sideways at me. “Your mom named you FX?” he said.
I smiled. People from my childhood didn’t know the initials I used for my travel essays, because no one from home ever read them. I had just ﬁnished one about Oaxaca for Vogue, and an article on Bath for Travel and Leisure. At noon today, I’d gotten off a plane from Zurich. I was working on a Switzerland piece for Immerse, the funky travel magazine where I had regular assignments.
No one who read my essays or assigned them knew my real name.
“She did,” I said to Jeremiah as the elevator door opened.
The loft had cement ﬂoors the color and texture of limestone cliffs, and ebony-wood furniture, and grass growing in pots. Arthur Graves’s new place. He’d made a career by moving to a different city each year and writing a book, always about himself—a man who searched for the right apartment or house where he could paint, who always found a local woman to cook for him and another local woman to love him. He’d done Rio de Janeiro, Lisbon, San Francisco, and Avignon. After a year, he’d leave for another place. Another love.
Arthur Graves actually looked like his jacket photo—white-blond hair combed severely back from his tanned forehead and curling like commas behind his ears, black horn-rimmed glasses. Very British. He stood near a table piled with empanadas and fruit, his new book propped on a side table with a vase full of white roses. He’d been in Argentina this time. Not Buenos Aires but Córdoba, and the ﬁrst chapter had been published in Immerse. So here we were—magazine writers, editors and publicists, people from the Los Angeles Times, and people from Hollywood because this book was being made into a movie.
I was headed for the empanadas when my phone rang. Rick, my edi
Returning home to mark the fifth anniversary of a close friend's murder, travel writer Fantine Antoine desperately follows her friend's grieving son to Louisiana to stop his criminal ambitions, an effort also shaped by her father's revelations. By the National Book Award finalist author of Highwire Moon.
From the author of A Million Nightingales (“a writer of exceptional gifts and grace”—Joyce Carol Oates) comes a luminous new novel about the forces that tear families apart and the ties that bind them together.
Fantine Antoine is a travel writer, a profession that keeps her happily away from her Southern California home. When she returns to mark the fifth anniversary of the murder of her closest childhood friend, Glorette, she finds herself pulled into the tumultuous life of Glorette’s twenty-two-year-old son—and Fantine’s godson—Victor. After getting involved in a shooting, Victor has fled to New Orleans. Together with her father, Fantine follows Victor, determined to help him avoid the criminal future that he suddenly seems destined for.
Fantine’s own fate will be altered on this journey as well: her father will reveal the wrenching secrets of his past, and she will be compelled to question the most essential choices she’s made in her life. As they cross from California to the heart of Louisiana, all three characters will come face-to-face with the issues of race that beset them: Fantine, whose light skin has allowed her a kind of invisibility; her father, who grew up in the Jim Crow South and has tried to guard his family against that world; and Victor, whose fall into violence mirrors the path of so many other young black men. For Fantine, finding Victor could offer them both a way to face the past and decide between different futures.
Powerful and moving, Take One Candle Light a Room illuminates the intricacies of human connection and the ways in which we find a place for ourselves within our families and the world.
About the Author
SUSAN STRAIGHT is the author of six novels, including the National Book Award finalist Highwire Moon. She has written for The New York Times Magazine, the Los Angeles Times, Harper’s, and NPR’s All Things Considered. She teaches at the University of California, Riverside.
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