cover image The House of Forgetting

The House of Forgetting

Benjamin Alire Saenz. HarperCollins, $24 (352pp) ISBN 978-0-06-018738-5

Thomas Blacker, a University of Chicago academic with an impeccable reputation, has a filthy little secret, which comes to light when she stabs him with a dinner knife in his Hyde Park mansion. His secret, 30-year-old Gloria Erlinda Santos, whom he kidnapped from an El Paso barrio when she was seven, is a rare flower of intelligence and beauty. Transplanted to Blacker's basement, she is shackled for 11 years and groomed through a program of alternating kindness and brutality to become her captor's perfect lover and companion. The product of that horrifying education, a woman well-versed in the arts and humanities, social graces and connoisseurship, has not spoken with another person, walked on a city sidewalk, entered a store, taken an elevator, ridden in a cab, made a phone call or opened a door since she was a child. Over the course of the peculiar case against the powerful, corrupt professor, Santos's acerbic Cajun attorney, Jenny Richard, finds herself in an uneasy, unlikely alliance with police lieutenant Sandy Murphy, with whom she shares a history of volatile courtroom skirmishes and midlife angst. When evidence against Blacker disappears and Gloria's resolve to prosecute wavers under the seductive thrall of her captor, Richard and Murphy discover the depth of the evil that they're up against. With his hallucinogenic lyricism and intelligent characters, Saenz (Carry Me Like Water), who won the 1992 American Book Award for his poetry collection Calendar of Dust, has written an absorbing, dark take on the Galatea tale. (June)