In a book that captures the exuberance, sensuality and ever-present music and dance of Cuba, Oscar Hijuelos (The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, 1989, etc.) returns to tell “the true story of…the lady behind a famous song.” When the Castillo brothers came to New York City to seek fame and fortune, beautiful, inaccessible Maria haunted the lives of Nestor and his brother and inspired the writing—and endless rewriting—of the song dedicated to her memory. But Maria’s significance goes far beyond her brief affair with Nestor—she represents Cuba itself, the “incredibly seductive and desirable past that can’t be reclaimed again,” says Hijuelos of the muse behind the sequel to the Pulitzer Prize-winning Mambo Kings. “[It is] so much a part of the immigrant/exile experience.” Hijuelos traces Maria’s impoverished rural beginnings, moves through her glory days in Havana and her escape to America, to the success of her pediatrician daughter, mixing real and fictional events and creating characters rich in Cuban tradition. Satisfying as a stand-alone read, Mambo King aficionados will note the variations in Maria’s version of events and be left wondering which fictional account to believe. (First appeared in our Spring & Summer Preview.)
For a list of all the best fiction books of 2010, click here.
Beautiful Maria of My Soul
Hyperion / June / 9781401323349 / $25.99
This book was featured in the Kirkus Best of 2010