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Between Heaven and Here

3.76 of 5 stars 3.76  ·  rating details  ·  175 ratings  ·  41 reviews
In August in Rio Seco, California, the ground is too hard to bury a body. But Glorette Picard is dead, and across the canal, out in the orange groves, they’ll gather shovels and pickaxes and soak the dirt until they can lay her coffin down. First, someone needs to find her son Victor, who memorizes SAT words to avoid the guys selling rock, and someone needs to tell her unc...more
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published September 12th 2012 by McSweeney's (first published January 1st 2012)
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Jenny Shank

Between Heaven and Here
Susan Straight
(McSweeney’s, $22)

By JENNY SHANK Special Contributor
Published: 20 September 2012 06:56 PM

Susan Straight is like that rare teacher who sees only the best in the worst-behaved kid in the class. Although Riverside, Calif., turns up in its share of places-to-avoid lists, Straight has built a loving literary monument to her hometown in a series of award-winning novels set in Rio Seco, her fictional stand-in for Riverside, an...more
The author has created a story that seems real and got my attention with the vibrant and fascinating interplay between characters. I was left feeling that I had first hand knowledge of the events and lives of the characters.

I don't typically read this genre, but I'm glad I read this book.
Although I've been an admirer of Straight's fiction since Aquaboogie, I consider Between Heaven and Here to be her best. The beauty of her writing, the gripping story, the depth of her characters and her observations on human nature ... I couldn't put it down. Once again, she took me inside the hearts and lives of people I see on the streets, but this time I finished the book feeling as though they were neighbors and friends. I'm reminded of Faulkner, in his most accessible work.
Amazing breadth and depth for such a slim volume.

Between Heaven and Here appeared at my door courtesy of my McSweeney's book club subscription, so I did not realize that it was the third book in a series. I did a quick internet search and found out that the main events here take place in between the other two books. I didn't feel like I missed much by not reading the others first, but I'm a completist, so I'm going back to catch those soon!

A real community is quite complex. Susan Straight really...more
Jan 20, 2013 Deka rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: 2013
i really wanted to like this book.
i bought it after attending a book talk with the author. she made riverside, california sounds like a fascinating place.
the story's core is interesting.
but, the author is so scattered. she jumps from character to character and 50 years in the past or the future in a single chapter.
i even skipped a chapter in the middle that was completely nonsensical.
the book started off strongly. there are parts that are heartbreaking and haunting, charming, funny, and very rea...more
JS Found
A crack whore is dead in a shopping cart in a small SoCal town. Instead of letting the cops handle it--they wouldn't care--the people from her community, a street of houses, take her to her family who decide to faker the circumstances of her death so her teenage son won't grieve harder. He is the hope of the whole community, a very smart black boy who is on his way to a great university and middle class prospects. His family are transplants from Louisiana, blacks who moved West during the Great...more
Aline Ohanesian
I'm a huge Susan Straight fan and have read every book she's written. ( I think.) This book is definitely an accumulation of all her talents as a writer. Her mastery of dialogue left me awestruck. Told from multiple points of view, BH&H is a story about community, family and the ties that bind us to one another. But it's also about so much more. Drugs, sex, class and race. It's all in here. My new favorite.
Beautifully written as usual but I got a little confused with the format on who was related to who at times. One big error I saw was this on page 214...."The Navigator bumping old-school House of Pain--'Insane in the membrane, insane in the brain'--and the moon hanging low like a damn Mento. Ugggg! That's old school Cypress Hill, not House of Pain.
Interconnected stories about a Creole family living in Riverside, California. Glorette is the center, each story spoking off her troubled life and violent death. The stories take us to a levee in Louisiana where 100 people are stranded after a deadly flood in 1926, to a juvenile correctional facility in Chino, to Riverside's strip malls and highway overpasses and an improvised parking lot around a community college.

After a bit of a slow start, I came to love this family. I want to read more of...more
Kelly Mcnally
Delightful. Heavy. I will always read anything Susan Straight writes. Most of her books are interconnected... I highly recommend reading them all in order.
Apr 19, 2014 Margie marked it as to-read
Recommended to Margie by: LA Times
This is the third in her Rio Seco series. The first two are:
A Million Nightengales
Take One Candle Light a Room
Susan Straight has never written a badly conceived sentence or character in her published life. This book is just a good as her past writing.
A beautiful woman grows up poor, betrayed by the men who want to own her beauty for a time. She gets pregnant as a teenager, has a son, does her best to raise him, but dies when he is still a teen. Murder or overdose, some people around her lie while others seek to uncover the truth.
People holding on to the edge still have much to lose.
This story was too dark for me, and skipped back and forth a little too much.
Heather Forrester
Susan Straight was my creative writing teacher as an English major undergrad at University of California--Riverside so I am a bit biased towards her craft. Between Heaven and Here is a wonderful little story that finalizes a wonderful trilogy. There is a bit of bouncing around with the characters but it doesn't take away from the thoughtful yet tragic tale that needs to be told. Well done Susan!
Interrelated stories about a crack-addicted streetwalker in Riverside County, and the histories of her family. It was very well-written and beautifully evoked the world of the characters. My only complaint is that the dialect was so hard to understand, and the chapters revolving around individuals so hard to follow that I feel like I missed a lot of what the book had to offer.
I got a little frustrated with the first part of the book because it just seemed to keep covering old ground and not add anything new. Eventually, though, I got into it and enjoyed it the way I do all of Susan Straight's books. Her characters are so engaging--I feel like I know them--she is incredibly good at making me feel as if I am a part of the story.
Beautiful writing.

Frustrating to try to keep track of all the characters.

Powerful moments.

Very depressing subject matter.

Focuses on how the past can seep up into the present.

Fortunately, by the end there's hope. And I understand Susan Straight will now be writing about this hopeful character in her next book. That's one I will read.
Morgan Tigerman

Well written, urgent, and compelling. She does a dope job of layering the thoughts and realities of the characters in a single moment. Real talk though, some of the urban dialect and cultural references (a few of which are incorrect) seemed really forced, which pulled me out of the text and made me more skeptical than I wish I would have been.
Jane Ciabattari
I loved this book so much....I find Susan Straight's Rio Seco trilogy one of the best portraits of contemporary America out there. I liked it so much I made this one of my top 5 fiction of the year for The Daily Beast:
Between the way the author plays with chronology and the way she's able to change her voice as the perspective changes from chapter to chapter, this was simply a beautiful read (if quietly heartbreaking). I only learned when I was some way in that this is the third book in a trilogy, so I'm hunting the first two down as soon as I can.
Feb 28, 2013 joyce rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone
Shelves: mystery
I love this book & will read it again & again! The story is sad and yet compelling. You feel the characters, their environment & want to be there. Not that their life is wonderful & happy, but the people are so rich & deep that they make you want to sit down & BE with them. Will have to read Susan Straight's other novels.
Sistadi Wallace
Wish I had known this was third in a series . .would have started with the first one . . reading this, I felt kind of lost as I wasn't sure what was going on until I was about done with the book. Kind of hard for me . .however it was a trip to Creole country in Louisiana . . nice for historical/cultural value ..
I received this as a goodreads giveaway. It is a story about a girl that was just so beautiful and how everyone's life intermingles with each other in one form or another. It was a very descriptive book, I could feel the heat of the day seemingly to come right off the pages.
A beautifully written book doesn't necessarily indicate a good story. While I enjoyed her narrative, in the end it was more of a "month in the life of...". While I don't regret spending the time to read it, it wouldn't be a book I jump to recommend to others.
Dale Barlow
2012 purchased hardback, 234 pgs.; attempted to read in ’13 + ’14—no better the 2nd time around
I can't really recommend it. There's a unique voice here, but the voice is not for me. It glides around like a chatty teenager oftentimes going nowhere at all. I'd like to leave that rambling nothingness back in high school.

Living in Louisiana (now) but growing up poor in a city (then) made this book resonate with me. Very vividly written, but, at least for me, a little depressing. Hit too close to home, I suppose.
Charlene Walsh
Really interesting style or wring interlacing different times and places, flowing through one generation to the next and many seeking their own destiny. I want to read more by Susan Straight.
Kinyorda Sliwiak
This book was confusing. It was hard to decipher the plot and characters. Once I figured out what was going on the book didn't grab me. It was a chore to finish.
Sue Johnson
Besides being a good mystery, this novel delves into the black cultures of small town California and the Louisiana creole community. Tone and voice ring true.
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Susan Straight's newest novel is "Between Heaven and Here." It is the last in the Rio Seco Trilogy, which began with "A Million Nightingales" and "Take One Candle Light a Room." She has published eight novels, a novel for young readers and a children's book. She has also written essays and articles for numerous national publications, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Nation and...more
More about Susan Straight...
I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots A Million Nightingales Highwire Moon Take One Candle Light a Room Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights

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