Liza's Reviews > Carry Me Like Water

Carry Me Like Water by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
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's review
Aug 06, 2011

really liked it
bookshelves: latino-fiction, want-to-read-more-from-this-author
Read in September, 2008 — I own a copy

Imagine a coy flirt at a bar. She's intriguing to people because she knows how to capture their attention, without having to surrender to blatant attention getting tactics, such as the party socialite. The same thing applies to magic realism. The minute these elements take over the novel, you can argue the book is no longer magic realist.

And that is unfortunately the main problem with Saenz's character, Lizzie, who is given a psychic gift. Her new abilities, at times, take over the story and become distracting. (That same flirt from the bar that was mysterious, is now screaming, "Look at me! Look at me!") Lizzie loses purpose and all the threads that bring everyone together are no longer special with a histrionic women at the center of these events.

There is still plenty to be praised about Carry Me Like Water. Saenz's ability to write powerful, imaginative prose is awe inspiring. Every single page is filled with several poetic lines strung together to create a powerful image. Knowing that his words capture moments perfectly, Saenz becomes opportunistic and uses his writing ability to address cultural issues, the AIDS epidemic, religion, gay culture and several more taboo subjects.

The story's focus is on Diego a deaf-mute in El Paso, and the remaining cast who can be found in California such as Helen, Helen's best friend Lizzie, and Jake, a gay man coping with the HIV virus. As the story progresses, secrets become unraveled and all of a sudden every character is connected to one another through fate and unexpected events. The focus is not so much on what ties them together, rather how the events that bring them together changes them for the better or worse.

At times you may start to think that the whole cast of characters will suffer tragedy after tragedy as Saenz takes great pleasure in torturing his characters. Will these characters ever see the light? However, there is a balance to his Guantanamo Bay-character-torture tactics. Every character's story line (with the exception of Lizzie) follows a natural progression and reaches a logical conclusion rather than a Disney-esque ending.

I'm a lover of Disney endings, but had he done that, it would have been a huge disservice to the novel. He eventually manages to reign in Lizzie so that the reader can enjoy the story, rather than focus on her selfish, all consuming, obnoxious behavior. Their are plenty of obnoxious characters in Carry Me Like Water, but only Lizzie detracts from the novel suggesting that somewhere along the line Saenz lost control of the character. Thankfully though, this behavior doesn't last long. (Even the desperate gal at the bar realizes her mistake and comes up with a better method for gaining attention.)

It's an amazing story, despite that one flaw (Lizzie) that you can enjoy. It's not preachy, but it does highlight different segments of society that we as a society tend to shun or ignore for one reason or another.

However, that being said there are some warnings:

1. Don't read the book if you usually are the sort to censor or ban books. You won't like this.
2. Don't read the book if a hurricane just passed through your area and you're without electricity and wanted a fun light read. This is not it.
3. Don't read the book if you have strong feelings towards immigration, homosexuality, religion, and other subjects that you feel are either fundamentally right or wrong. If you don't believe in gray areas, you will be disappointed. This book won't change your mind and all it will do is upset you and make you wonder if you can join the people in bullet point 1.

All in all, an amazing book.

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