A sweetly affirming debut novel describing one woman's long journey to autonomy via Spain, Cuba, and the US. The saga (which serves as an unobtrusive reprise of recent Spanish and Cuban history) opens in Cuba shortly after Castro has taken over. There, Rosa Garach (living with eldest son Andres, daughter-in law Norma, and 11-year-old grandson Juan Andres) sees her grandson taken off by the security police because his parents— counterrevolutionary activities have been discovered. We then flash back to Spain, where Rosa (born in 1900) marries Juan, an ambitious farmer, and bears four sons (Andres, twins Lucas and Fermin, and Jose) and daughter Lucia. Juan abuses the illiterate Rosa simply because she's a woman (and thus inferior), but he has big dreams for himself and his sons. The boys soon move to Cuba, where opportunities in the late '20s and early '40s are better. They—re joined there by Rosa and Juan, but not for long—as Juan, concerned with Cuba's growing political instability, decides that the family should return to Spain. A fatal decision, it turns out, since civil war soon breaks out. But the four sons first, then Lucia, and finally Rosa (once Juan dies of cancer) all make it back to Cuba. They prosper until the Revolution, when they must again flee, this time to the States. As her children move about, marry, and quarrel, Rosa—always the loving mother—worries that her sons (particularly Lucas) don—t respect her not only because she's a woman but because she's an uneducated one at that. In her 90s, though, with help from Lucas's former mistress Cachita Montero, Rosa finally gets the money due her, buys a house, and learns to write and read. A birthday at the close will at last bring everybody together to acknowledge her tenacity and hard work. An unpretentious feminist tale of love and determination, refreshingly unsentimental.
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