An evocative novel about the trials and triumphs of a Hispanic family, from a Cuban-born poet and essayist (Exiled Memories, not reviewed). The book opens in 1949 in a fictional Caribbean island-nation with the birth of Ant¢n Garc°a-Turner, a sickly child much too pale for the tropical clime, born to a bourgeois family of no particular influence or power. From the beginning, however, the boy's grandmother Felicia believes he is destined for great things, partly because of vivid dreams that she interprets with the help of a local seer. She develops a special bond with her grandson, but her discovery that he carries the family's hereditary birthmark—a brown blotch on the lower back—sends her into a mysterious state that leaves her literally speechless and nearly dead. This leads her desperate relatives to summon Lucho Turner, the family's great hope and one of Felicia's favorites, who had left the country of his birth to pursue a career in psychiatry in America. Ant¢n and his parents follow a similar route when political unrest on the tiny island forces them to flee. Felicia must watch her relatives depart into a future of which she will not be a part. Medina uses his family drama to depict the modern history of Latin America, complete with US-sponsored dictatorship and repression, CIA manipulations, the economic neocolonialism of North American corporations, and cultural imperialism. He also explores the clash of cultures as the Garc°a-Turners struggle to adapt to life in el norte. Readers will be left with little doubt that this sometimes funny, sometimes wan novel is in reality a paean to his own native land and the resilience of its people. Lyrical and stylish, this is a fine example of magical realism in the vein of Rudolfo Anaya and Gabriel Garc°a M†rquez.
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