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Reviewed by Viga Boland for Readers' Favorite
It’s not unusual for me to cry at the end of a movie. But it’s totally unlike me to cry at the end of a book. How did Glenn Starkey move me so much with his historical fiction novel, Black Sun? Was it the series of blood-curdling events presented so clearly in this novel, based on the years leading up to and including the Mexican Revolution from 1910 - 1920? Was it the characters Glenn Starkey brought to life in his protagonist Arnulfo (later known as Indio), his dearest friend and mentor, Chamaco, and the non-fictional, notorious Pancho Villa? Was it their love and loyalty to each other, along with their camaraderie and mescal-fuelled humor that touched me so deeply? Or was it perhaps their willingness to die for their country in the hopes of freeing its ravaged and poor inhabitants from a rotten dictatorship? Near the end of Black Sun, when Arnulfo’s heart broke as his faithful horse, Cha Cha, fell forward onto a rifle spear and died, my heart broke too as I reflected on the senseless and massive loss of lives Glenn Starkey depicted in Black Sun.
It was Glenn Starkey’s ability to capture humanity at its worst and at its very best that touched me so deeply. It was his incredible skill as a writer that moved me to tears. Where some authors write a great story you can’t put down, Glenn Starkey weaves a richly coloured tapestry and breathes life into every thread of the story. Every sentence, every paragraph, every description, and every character matters. Black Sun is near impossible to put down, but when you finally do, you know you’ll never forget the story and its characters.
Perhaps the explanation for that lies in the author’s own words. Glenn Starkey states in the afterword that for him, “writing this novel was a great exploration of thought.” It is that for the reader too. He states further that the writing reaffirmed his “belief in family bonds and the importance of not allowing foolishness and petty squabbles to drive wedges between family members.” You cannot come away from Black Sun without reflecting on how that theme was evident in all the relationships in this book: Arnulfo with his parents, with Myra, his first love, with Chamaco, Pancho, the Yaqui Indian leader, and even his horse, Cha Cha.
Black Sun provokes the reader to think about our perceptions of others: so many of the “baddies” in this book are really the “goodies” and vice versa. Pancho Villa was a devil to some, a hero to others. It is obvious that Glenn Starkey has thoroughly researched the history of all the key figures, along with times, dates and events in the Mexican Revolution. In fact, he states on his website that Black Sun took years to write because the more he dug into the history, the more he found to research. And he brings all of it together in one block-buster of a book. Book reviews are supposed to be objective, but I don’t apologize for the subjectivity of this review. You see, historical fiction is one of my last choices when it comes to reading a book. That’s why I still can’t believe how much I loved Black Sun. This is one to put at the top of your “must-read” list. You won’t be disappointed.