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Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club

4.17  ·  Rating details ·  1,622 ratings  ·  298 reviews
Winner of the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction!

Benjamin Alire Sáenz's stories reveal how all borders—real, imagined, sexual, human, the line between dark and light, addict and straight—entangle those who live on either side. Take, for instance, the Kentucky Club on Avenida Juárez two blocks south of the Rio Grande. It's a touchstone for each of Sáenz's stories. His char
Paperback, 222 pages
Published October 30th 2012 by Cinco Puntos Press (first published 2012)
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Claire I completely agree with you!

I adored the coming of age YA book 'The Inexplicable Logic of My Life', and I've heard of 'Carry On' and 'Last Night I Sa…more
I completely agree with you!

I adored the coming of age YA book 'The Inexplicable Logic of My Life', and I've heard of 'Carry On' and 'Last Night I Sang to the Monsters'.

I'd also love to recommend some of his poetry! They have the same magical air to them that his novels have and I love them!

If you search Benjamin Alire Saenz on Goodreads, you can go into his profile, where all of his books are listed, as I know that I haven't mentioned them all!

Happy reading!(less)

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Jay Koester
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Amazing. This was a book of seven short stories. It was such an entertaining read that I probably could have read the whole book in a day or two. But each story was so powerful, after each one I just put the book down and thought about it for a while. I read the book over seven days, a story each night.

This book hasn't received many rave reviews, so after each amazing chapter, I found myself contemplating why that was. I decided that perhaps the book was too melodramatic or not subtle enough fo
Anna Luce
4 ½ stars

“No one had ever taught me how to love. And perhaps, in that department, I was uneducable.”

Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club is heartbreakingly beautiful collection of short stories. These stories have Benjamin Alire Sáenz written all over them: Mexican-American boys and men struggling with their identity (not feeling Mexican or American enough), their sexuality, their self-worth, and who have complex relationships with their parents. There is a focus on the dynamic bet
Feb 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
More than the Kentucky Club itself (a cool, seedy ‘lil place that welcomes you on your walking voyage into Juarez, Mexico—providing you with the best drunken time you can possibly have, if you are an American 18 year old and you're not afraid to tempt the cops and risk driving drunk) it is the theme of pain which unites all seven stories. The pain is palpable; the resurgent feeling of melancholy drives all other emotion down, down...

This is perhaps the quintessential novel about El Paso, Texas.
Aug 05, 2013 rated it liked it
Individually, the stories are powerful, and excellent. There is so much to love, particularly in The Art of Translation. As a collection, there is simply not enough variety. The narrators of the stories are largely indistinct. Nearly every one has indifferent parents, is mired in self-loathing, and won't let himself be loved. This collection would have benefited from more narrative diversity.
Dec 01, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: next

Seven short stories about stunted boys who have been dealt blows by life's hurting game. Struggling through with different methods and different results. A bit of a melancholic read but the last one gave me hope, hope that after all the struggling, rays of light will shine through.
"Salvation existed in his own broken heart and he'd have to find a way to get at it."

Having just finished watching the series The Bridge set in Juarez/El Paso these short stories added more images about th
Larry H
Jun 06, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This was an absolutely fantastic (if too short) story collection which captivated me from the very first sentence, moved me, and made me want more from every story. I can easily see why this collection received both the 2013 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction as well as the Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction (although not every story is gay-themed).

The Kentucky Club in Juárez, Mexico, just over the U.S. border, is a touchstone in every story. Much like the characters in Saenz's stories, the Kentu

“Do you know what to do with love, Charlie?”
“Probably not.”

While all stories in this collection affected me emotionally, for me, they didn’t deliver what the blurb promised.

The first two stories stood out (He Has Gone To Be with the Women is a love story between two men - one from El Paso and the other from Juárez; The Art of Translation is about the aftermath of a racist bashing on a young Mexican student). With them I understood the direction this collection was taking, I saw what the conf
Apr 26, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I wanted to carry this book around everywhere I went, not because I wanted to be seen as an intellectual, or deep, and soulful, but just because I wanted to talk about it with everyone I'd come in contact. Then, near the end, there were other stories that made me want to run home and cry because someone found out what I looked like inside. After I've cried down this lump in my throat to the knot in my stomach, I'll have a drink and wish for a cigarette, sorry that I can't walk over the bridge to ...more
Matt Flickinger
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I was one of the not so few white El Pasoans fortunate enough to visit the Kentucky Club before the shit started in Juarez. Though I was in my late teens and bent on getting drunk-uninterested in the rich history of some of the establishments in which I found myself drinking-I did recognize the inherent specialness of the Kentucky Club. It seemed to me to have a reverence and mystery about it. A history and knowledge that I was drawn to, even in my ignorant, blissful youth. I insisted my friends ...more
Dec 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Apr 04, 2013 rated it liked it
3 1/2 stars.

Emotionally wrenching stories. Some beautiful writing in this collection. My problem here is that virtually every protagonist is an incredibly SLIGHT variation on the writer's Aristotle character from "Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe". There's a sameness in their personalities, their speech patterns, their outlooks on life. I don't see a whole lot of range here.

As with the author's YA book mentioned above, the number of times I see "That made me laugh" throug
Aug 18, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was such a delicate book to read. I am usually drawn to deep, powerful, punch in the face kind of writing, but this is the exact opposite of it. This collection of short stories is written with an exacerbated sensitivity. The stories themselves are paperweight, and reading them feels like submerging yourself in water.

You felt its feathery touch, but you are not scarred. Just caressed with unimaginable care and delicacy.

I am in love with Saenz's writing. Let me just put it out there.
I had no idea about the Mexican culture before reading his books. I still can't say I know a lot. I don't. BUT I am intrigued. AND I can't wait to learn more about it. All thanks to this wonderful author.
Jaurez is as much a character in this collection of 7 short stories as any of the humans in it. We are forced to let go of our quick judgement and biases as we get sucked into the underbelly of the city.
There is a lot of melodram
Mar 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: queer-lit, for-me
what a phenomenal collection. the stories are tender and wrought but not (often) overly sentimental and full of heart and honesty. they examine and complicate all kinds of borders: the physical borders of countries, borders of sexual identity, and the borders and walls we put up ourselves. they were really fucking sad but so, so beautiful that i couldn't put it down. i thought the use of the kentucky club was almost unnecessary--all the stories would have felt related even if they didn't all sto ...more
Jul 26, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Tragic, emotional, compelling, raw and biting. Benjamin Alire Sáenz collection of short stories is stunningly beautiful as it tackles the topic borders, both literal and figurative. The literal border is the U.S. Mexico border with the cities of El Paso and Juarez offering two very different experiences. One of freedom and relative peace and the other of extreme violence and danger. But more importantly the seven stories in the collection explore the difficult borders of race, class, gender, and ...more
Mar 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club is a series of seven short thought provoking stories. These stories are connected not only by the Kentucky Club, a touchstone in every story, but by the common theme of borders, real and imagined, and how they affect the lives of those on both sides. This novel explores profound topics such as hate crimes, racism, homophobia, addiction, suicide, mental illness, and will undoubtedly make you think even after you put the book down. With Mr. Saenz's u ...more
Maryam Dinzly
Dec 27, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Y'all, this book is so damn gorgeous you need to read it. Not physically gorgeous but on the inside omg. The words are beautiful and I am so fucking in love. I thank Dionne so damn much for introducing me this book.

This book is full of short stories that pretty much show you the horror of living beyond the Mexican border? I don't really understand it geographically (because I never did understand geographic terms) but damn, the first story broke my bloody heart.

And it continues on from there, I
I would give all of the shorts in this collection 4 or 5 stars. I love the writing. Most of the stories aren't very happy, but they were meaningful. Topics spanned love, depression, hate crimes, suicide, and so many other things. Some of the connections between characters were so beautiful. I really loved it. I read them all in one day.Definitely want to read even more by this author when I get the chance to.
Jane Hammons
My favorite book at the moment. Important look at all kinds of borders--the most obvious the very fluid one between contemporary El Paso and Juarez. All of the characters are long time residents of la frontera so the stories are told from a perspective we rarely see in fiction.
Mar 09, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written stories in a book just nominated for the prestigious PEN/Faulkner prize.
Apr 24, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: gay, fiction
Seven stories, in each of which the Kentucky Club, a bar in Juarez, plays a minor role. All of them are more than good, but "Sometimes the Rain" is one of the best I've ever read.
Naz (Read Diverse Books)
Aug 16, 2015 rated it really liked it
Full review at:

Definitely one of my favorite short story collections ever!! Granted, I have not read very many, but this set has convinced me to read more.
anna (½ of readsrainbow)
rep: predominantly Mexican-American cast, gay characters
Apr 17, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a collection of poignant and affecting stories. He expertly conveys a certain feeling: a longing as well as the longing that's piqued after you've gotten what or who you wanted but it is now absent. His language has a precision, poetic and somehow tactical...with full impact even in its spare quality at times. And I especially appreciated the repartee as the characters flirted.

Many stories had an abusive father and either a parent's siblings or the main character's. This repetition blurr
Sydnëy Maë
May 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is the third Benjamin Saenz’s been I’ve read. It was just as beautiful as Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe and The Inexplicable Logic of My Life. Every one of these seven stories were unique in their own way. The writing was so beautifully poetic, it deals with family struggles, religion, being gay/lgbt, finding yourself, and so much more. There are always flaws in books but I personally could not find any flaws except for the fact that every story seemed to have end ...more
Paloma Callo
Oct 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book is heart-achingly beautiful and phenomenally written. The first story defines the sociopolitical reality, marked by the fear of the main character. There is an earnest kind of love that fades with the tragic end. The characters that follow are dealing with the aftermath of trauma, or continued trauma. This structure lowers the reader into how external circumstances impact the character's mental health, family life, and the social roles they take on. Great structure. Enticing thoughts. ...more
Rian Durant
Mar 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
Beautiful, sometimes sad and always infinitely poetic stories in the unique style of the author. With this collection Benjamin Alire Sáenz proves ones again that he is a true artist when it comes to writing emotions.
The only issue I had with this book was the similarity of the narrator of each of them. At times they sound as if it the same person.
Yet, I like them all, with the last one being my favorite.
Jul 29, 2018 rated it it was amazing
It was super good? Like all the stories were actually good?
Kurt Ostrow
Apr 19, 2020 rated it really liked it
I always tell my students that BAS = (grand)daddy because he is a favorite YA writer: so tender and warm, always bringing me to tears and shit. BAS fell short for me here, though, doubly outside what I usually read from him: short stories and adult lit. KENTUCKY CLUB felt too contiguous, one male narrator after the next struggling to let himself be loved and, all of a sudden, crying unconsciously. Looking up words in the dictionary, bad fathers. Even while I liked each story well enough, and som ...more
Tex Reader
4.0 of 5 - Engaging Stories About Finding Yourself & Sometimes, Love.

I love gay fiction, but not usually short stories. So that made this all the more powerful as being one of the best set of shorts I’ve read, well deserving of its PEN/Faulkner nod.

Sáenz’s style is clear, vivid, concise, even staccato, with good pace throughout. For short stories, they all had a good development of plot, place, conflict, and characters. Each of the seven story is in first person, which made it more personal and
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Benjamin Alire Sáenz (born 16 August 1954) is an award-winning American poet, novelist and writer of children's books.

He was born at Old Picacho, New Mexico, the fourth of seven children, and was raised on a small farm near Mesilla, New Mexico. He graduated from Las Cruces High School in 1972. That fall, he entered St. Thomas Seminary in Denver, Colorado where he received a B.A. degree in Humaniti

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