I did not expect to love The Radius of Us as much as I did! The synopsis sounded good, but after requesting I scheduled it and then forgot about it. Is it bold if I say that I think a lot of people will, or have, done the same thing? I haven’t seen many reviewers talking about The Radius of Us. I haven’t seen it on many ‘Diverse Books’ list, but it should be.
First, I have to talk a little about Perfect Chemistry. I’m not sure if you guys remember, but it was so popular about 5 years ago. It has a similar story, not about asylum seekers, but about Latino gang life in the US. I never connected to the story, I thought it felt too much like a fantasized relationship with a gang member. It didn’t feel honest. I needed to mention that because for everything that I thought Perfect Chemistry got wrong, I think that The Radius of Us got right. I felt like the representations in the story were more realistic, and that’s why I loved it so much.
My heart hurt so much for Phoenix and his brother Ari. Phoenix fought so hard to get out of El Salvador and away from the gang violence, to save himself but mostly to save his brother. Then to read how even the event of seeking asylum was fraught with perils. I felt myself tearing up more than once for him, and especially for Ari. My daughter is 12, the same age as Phoenix’s brother, and it killed me to imagine my daughter going through even a fraction of what Ari went through.
I also can’t minimize Gretchen’s trauma right here in the US. I don’t want to talk to much about it, because what she went through is parceled out over the course of the story and it’s important that you read it as she gives it.
However, it was the two stories coming together that left me both sad and hopeful. I was nervous and in love. I believed the entire story from page one. I would love to see more people reading and talking about this book, because I think the author did an amazing job.
Lastly I want to just mention the epilogue. It seems like epilogues can be a bone of contention with readers. Sometimes an epilogue is just too fluffy and pretty. It wraps up the story too perfectly. “They are happy, and everything is perfect, and look she’s pregnant! And he’s got the promotion, and everything is PEACHY.” But at the same time, we also struggle with wanting to know that everything will be okay. Rest assured, the epilogue in The Radius is perfect. One page. A sweet overview that soothes your soul, but doesn’t saturate you in sweetness. I think it was my favorite chapter of all.
Thank you to St. Martin’s Griffin for an advance copy in exchange for an honest review.