In this powerful, great-hearted story, Susan Straight takes us back to the multiracial area of southern California that is, in Faulkner’s phrase, her “postage stamp of soil.” As in her highly acclaimed earlier novels, she has created a world of richly imagined characters struggling to retain their dignity and humanity in an often brutal environment. Serafina is a young Mexican Indian girl desperate to leave her impoverished existence in Oaxaca. Emigrating illegally to California, adrift on her own, she becomes involved with Larry Foley, a feckless trucker and occasional speed freak. When a baby daughter, Elvia, is born, Serafina cares for her tenderly until the day she is forcibly separated from her child and deported. Elvia, who has known nothing but sheltering love, is thrust into foster care. Eventually reclaimed by her father, she shares his chaotic life until she becomes pregnant at fifteen. In a frenzy of fear and despair, she is filled with an overwhelming need to find her mother. Her quest leads her into the world of migrant farm labor, where bitter toil, violence, and sexual predation make clear how little has changed since the Joad family harvested the grapes of wrath. With unfailing compassion and profound emotional truth, Highwire Moon takes us into a hidden universe of love, pain, and stubborn hope. It is sure to appeal to Susan Straight’s ardent admirers — almost a cult readership now — and to find many new ones.
UCR Creative Writing Professor Susan Straight began writing “Highwire Moon,” at age 20 but put the project aside until she had lived more of life. The book’s story line emerged from a news item Straight read about a mother and daughter separated during an immigration raid. Now, four novels and three daughters later, Straight returned to finish the job. Straight began the book from the child’s point of view and filled in the voids as she grew to understand the hopes and gut-wrenching fear a mother has upon losing her child. In the interim, she wrote critically acclaimed novels including “Aquaboogie,” “I Been in Sorrow’s Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots,” and “Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights.”