Documentary film writer Guernica’s first novel is a historical saga that depicts a 1950s Cuban family caught in the storm of Castro’s revolution.
The novel opens with a fast-paced account of Fidel and Raul Castro’s failed 1953 attack on the Moncada Barracks in Santiago de Cuba and its aftermath. Likable, privileged Alfonso Candela lives with his family in his own little slice of paradise nearby. As Castro’s revolution continues, Alfonso and his family try to go about their normal lives, but the Candelas eventually begin to break apart as the wartime conflict takes its toll on their psyches. In1961, they go to America, which they hope will provide a safe haven from their troubles. They struggle with their Cuban identity while in exile but attempt to remake their lives and find a fresh start in their new country. Guernica’s writing is slick, with short and nimble scenes that do a lot of work with few words. The story wanders gracefully, moving with ease among Alfonso; his wife, Mirta; and his son, Luis. Guernica’s scene transitions are particularly deft, capturing Baltimore on one page and Bayamo on the next, although occasional scenes drag on. Seamlessly weaving fact and fiction, Guernica juxtaposes compelling real-life incidents and newspaper clippings with his narrative, creating an engaging combination of styles. The news articles break up the novel’s action and effectively convey a sense of historical context. It’s a risky stylistic choice, but Guernica pulls it off by letting the articles flow naturally into the story. Overall, this novel will appeal to fans of historical fiction and family drama.
An enjoyable novel of Cuban history, seen through the eyes of those who witnessed it.