Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Rarely does a book come along like this and touch the reader, at least this reader, so deeply and so profoundly I am at a loss to fully articulate the beautiful and tender way Saenz speaks the brevity of words and says volumes and volumes in the spaces of each page.
This book was mesmerizing, heart-wrenching, and brought me to tears and laughter more than once throughout the book.
Dante and Ari meet at the pool during summer vacation. They become friends because Dante teaches Ari how to swim. They are both minorities (Mexican American) and have loving and complicated families.
Dante's family is very open and loving. They communicate freely and are not ashamed to show love toward Dante. They welcome Aristotle as Dante's friend and when something happens that changes Dante forever, the family becomes even more closely bonded to Ari. They welcome him as a son.
Aristotle's family is a bit more of a puzzle. Aristotle's dad has nightmares and won't talk about his time in Vietnam. Ari is often mute about the mystery of his father and why he can't seem to talk as openly with his father as he can with Dante's father. Ari's mother won't speak about Ari's older brother who is in prison. They have removed all pictures and evidence he even exists. Ari suffers in silence about this but often thinks about his brother and wonders why no one will talk about what happened, or why they'd rather pretend he doesn't exist.
Dante is an artist who hates shoes. Ari is a rebel who likes to cuss. Dante has a secret he's afraid to share with Ari. Ari doesn't even understand why he gets so angry and why he keeps having nightmares.
Saenz weaves an amazing and rich story with a breathless pacing and short chapters. Every word is a poem, every chapter is a painting. Dante and Ari become separated for a time and both develop new aspects of themselves that come into play when they are reunited.
The story is powerful and gripping. I have not read such fully developed characters in a long time and the love story here is exquisite.
This book is amazing. You must read it. So powerful. Such a testimony to love and the powerful way it sweeps over us and draws us under like the ocean laps at the shore.
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