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Night of the Radishes    by Sandra Benitez order for
Night of the Radishes
by Sandra Benitez
Order:  USA  Can
Theia, 2004 (2004)
* * *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

Night of the Radishes is a little gem of a book. Just over two hundred-fifty pages, it can be read quickly. But it shouldn't be. Allow it to enter your senses and become a part of you. It's a profound tale of family tragedy and how that family's horror captured the survivors and placed them on paths they would not otherwise have taken.

Annie Rush watches her mother die of emphysema as she reflects on their past. Annie's twin sister died at nine in a farm tractor accident. Her father died shortly afterwards and her older brother disappeared from her life. Annie is now married. She's deeply in love with her husband, and has two sons. When a clue to her brother's whereabouts emerges from her mother's papers, she flies to Mexico to find him. Annie's guilt has ridden her heart and mind all her life. Guilt over her sister's death, guilt over her father's death, guilt over her brother's disappearance, guilt over her mother's unhappiness. Fearing all this is her fault alone, she sets out to find Hub, her brother, to confront him with what she considers his abandonment of her. The magic of Mexico and a stranger named Joe Cruz help Annie find her way.

The story is moving though simply told. Mexico comes alive under the direction of the author's words, as do the characters. Annie could be me or you or a neighbor down your street. Would that we would have the courage that she has to face her torment. The author's insight into depression and loss is frighteningly real. It speaks to all of us at one time or another. Benitez puts it into words. And the last of this poignant book is not an ending, but a beginning.

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