THE HOUSE OF FORGETTING by Benjamin Alire Sáenz


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 Award-winning Hispanic poet and novelist S†enz (Carry Me Like Water, 1995, etc.) visits Turow and Grisham territory as he tells the melodramatic story of an abduction victim threatened by crooked lawyers and police. When Chicago cops break into Thomas Blacker's house and find Claudia Santos waiting for them while the aging Blacker lies bleeding from stab wounds, the case seems clear. Robbery or a tryst that soured seems likely, but the truth is much kinkier. Claudia refuses to speak, but feisty public prosecutor Jenny Richard soon gets her talking, and the story she tells is horrific enough to get her released into Jenny's charge. Kidnapped at the age of seven while walking down a street in her native El Paso, Claudia has been kept a prisoner--at first in shackles--in Blacker's house for 23 years. A famous author and academic, he trained her to be the idealized successor to his first wife, who died in a car accident. A cultural reactionary, he has also controlled every element of her life. Raping her when she was 18, he expected her to provide sex for him from then on. Jenny thinks she has a case, as does Lt. Alexander Murphy. But it's soon clear that Blacker has powerful friends who'll do anything to shield him: a gay friend of Jenny's is mugged, vital evidence is removed, and Claudia is stalked. Some of these elements feel overdone, and overlong: treachery and violence multiply at a dizzying rate. While Claudia struggles to cope with freedom and with her confused feelings about Blacker, Jenny and Murphy find themselves reluctantly falling in love. They manage to save Claudia from herself and to unmask the now-recovered Blacker, who has even more diabolical plans in mind. More schematic than insightful: a tale of abuse and the recovery of self that has little original to say about the psyches either of obsessed captor or of captive.

Pub Date: June 4th, 1997
ISBN: 0-06-018738-7
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: HarperCollins
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15th, 1997


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