Night of the Radishes – Sandra Benítez

Posted by in Books, review

nightradishes2Night of the Radishes is a novel by the author Sandra Benítez, a half Puerto Rican, half Caucasian woman who grew up in Mexico.  This multiculturalism is evident in Night of the Radishes, which takes place in both Mexico and Minnesota, and it is this multiculturalism that originally attracted me to the story.  I started reading this book a year or so ago but I never really got into the story.  This time it was much easier; it only took me two days to finish.

The main plot of the novel stems from the grief of the main character Annie.  Her mother is dying of emphysema, and when she finally succumbs to the disease, Annie must find her estranged brother Hub.  The journey takes her across the continent and makes her relive a lifetime of tragedy.  Both Annie’s sister and her father passed away when she was young.   Like the author, Annie had an identical twin who passed away when they were children.  There is a mystery surrounding the death of her sister and her father,  so I won’t give away any more.

Eventually, Annie follows the trail of postcards her brother has been sending over the years to a small town in Mexico outside of Oaxaca.  There she strikes up a friendship with a sociologist who helps her navigate Oaxaca and her grief.   The novel was often lyrical and the wording beautiful.  Benítez was very succesful in that regard; her prose made me want to read more, if the plot sometimes left me wanting.

The problem that I had with the story is that in the end, Annie did not have to face any consequences for her actions.  All of her guilt is absolved in a few short sentences, and while I’m certainly happy for her, and the small part of me that wants everything to end on the happy side, I just didn’t believe it.  I was pretty disappointed with the ending, which ruined the rest of the book for me.  Benítez is a wonderful writer, and I look forward to reading work from her again.  More realistic, just as beautiful and lyrical.

One thing that I loved about the book was the incorporation of the Night of the Radishes.  It’s a real festival in Mexico with some amazing sculptures made out of huge, inedible radishes.  Yes… radishes.  Find out more info here.  And check out some of these sweet pictures.

Rating: *** (Give it a shot)
288 pages