Monday, December 23, 2019

Book Review: "A Scarcity of Condors" by Suanne Laqueur

I'm not sure who it was that first told me about Suanne Laqueur's book An Exaltation of Larks, but they said it was one of the best books they had ever read. When I picked it up, I was utterly blown away by it, and I quickly dove into the second book in this series, A Charm of Finches. That one may have been even better, and I remember falling to pieces on a plane as I finished the book, which isn't a good position to be in. (Luckily it was dark.)

You can check out my review of An Exaltation of Larks here; my review of A Charm of Finches is here.

I just read the third book in this series, A Scarcity of Condors, and once again, Laqueur has slayed me. As I said in my last review, her ability to pull you into her books so completely, to feel such attachment to her characters that you can't stop thinking about them when you're finished reading, is absolutely dazzling. I can unequivocally say that these three books are among my favorites of the decade.

Juleón "Jude" Tholet knows how to fight to survive—it's ingrained in his genetics. His father Cleon was imprisoned and brutally tortured during Pinochet's military coup in Chile; his mother Penny fought tooth and nail to get him released, and after one last horrible round of torture left him hospitalized for some time, the two, along with their infant son, fled the country and moved to Canada.

But life in Canada isn't much easier for the family, as Cleon and Penny deal with the aftermath of their life in Chile, and then Jude, a closeted gay teenager, becomes the target of a neighborhood bully who discovers his relationship with his childhood best friend. Jude becomes the victim of a hate crime and their community subsequently turns on the Tholets, forcing them to once again flee their country, this time for America.

Over time, Jude is able to carve out a life for himself in Seattle, becoming a pianist for a professional ballet company. While he has had relationships, he's never let down his guard with someone the way he did with his friend in high school. One night, he and his parents, as well as his younger sister and her boyfriend, take a genetic test for fun. The results, however, are far from funny: Jude discovers that he is not genetically related to his parents.

Penny remembers waking up in the hospital in Chile after giving birth to Jude, following an attack by a soldier. Whose child is Jude, really? Was he switched at birth? Did something else occur? In that case, what happened to their actual child? These questions force Cleon and Penny to revisit those horrible days in Chile to try and uncover the truth, while Jude has to deal with the upheaval of everything he's known his entire life. How can he not be a Tholet?

A Scarcity of Condors looks at the brutal days of Pinochet's terrible reign over Chile—the way lives were brutalized, utterly changed, and, in many, cases, ended. It's a book about how the ties of our chosen family can be stronger than blood, and how much our families can mean to us. It's a book about survival, about finding strength where there should be none, and about how love can help pull us through. More than that, this is a book about new beginnings, about realizing we're worthy of love and happiness, and how one can embrace the past without dooming themselves to live it every day.

This is a gorgeous, sensitive, sexy, emotional book, full of moments that made me smile, made me blush, horrified me, and made me full-on ugly cry at times. The characters are simply gorgeous, fully drawn and complex, and this book sees the return of two pivotal characters from the last two books. (Boy, I hadn't realized how much I'd missed them.) Laqueur has done her research on the Pinochet days and it shows, yet the book never feels too mired in history, because her storytelling is so superb.

I'll end my review the way I ended my review of Laqueur's last book: Read these books. You've simply got to.

The author provided me a copy of the book in exchange for an unbiased review. Thanks for making this available!

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