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Take One Candle Light a Room: A novel
by Susan Straight

Published: 2010-10-12
Hardcover : 336 pages
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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 ...

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Introduction

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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.



Guest Reviewer: Ayelet Waldman

Ayelet Waldman is the author of Daughter's Keeper, Love and Other Impossible Pursuits, Red Hook Road, and the New York Times bestseller Bad Mother. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times, Salon.com, New York, Elle, Vogue, and other publications. She and her husband, the novelist Michael Chabon, live in Berkeley, California, with their four children.

Susan Straight is the Meryl Streep of novelists, and Take One Candle Light a Room is another bravura performance. Like that greatest of all actresses, Straight possesses an uncanny ability to disappear into her characters, to immerse herself so completely and convincingly that you believe wholeheartedly that she is the people about whom she writes. Perhaps the authenticity of the voice of Fantine Antoine, while artful, is initially less surprising - after all Straight is a woman of a similar age. But then you realize that she's writing about a woman of a different race, from a different background, and you begin to understand the magnificence of the high-wire performance that is a Susan Straight novel. Then the novel takes you into the point of view of Fantine's godson Victor, a young black man'still a boy, really?and you become absolutely boggled by what Straight is doing, what she's accomplished, the art and the ease of her prose.

I read Susan Straight for many reasons?because her sentences give me pleasure, because she makes me laugh and cry, sometimes in the same paragraph or with the same word?but mostly I read her because she catapults me into a world that I never knew existed. A world that is next to, but somehow separate from, the one in which I go about my business, do my work, and raise my children. She opens my eyes to what I would fail, without her, to see. And she doesn?t just show me this world. She makes me care about it, she gives me a stake in it. From the very first page of Take One Candle Light a Room, I was in the minds of the characters, in their heights, in their universe, and by the end, I was desperate for Victor to survive, for the power of Fantine's love to save him.



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