THE DISTANT MARVELS by Chantel Acevedo
Kirkus Star

THE DISTANT MARVELS

Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

One woman's story of brutality, courage, tragedy, and love gets a roomful of Cuban refugees through a hurricane.

As Hurricane Flora approaches Cuba in 1963, 82-year-old María Sirena Alonso refuses to evacuate with her neighbors; she is seriously ill and does not want to be saved. But once the storm arrives, a soldier shows up at her door to load her on a bus bound for a shelter. Though she takes nothing with her except a small framed photograph of a little boy, she needs nothing more because her whole life is in her head: "I have a perfect memory. I remember nearly everything I've ever read or heard." Once installed in a room at the erstwhile governor's mansion with a group of women who will ride out the storm together—including an ex-friend whose dead son used to be married to her daughter—María Sirena begins to tell the story of her life, beginning with her birth to Cuban parents on a Spanish ship at the end of the 19th century. Her rebel father is jailed as soon as they reach shore; her resourceful, beautiful mother, Lulu, finds protection for herself and her daughter with another man. When Agustín rejoins them, they are swept into the war against the Spanish. Acevedo's third novel (A Falling Star, 2014, etc.) mingles the recounting of María Sirena's epic family saga, which ends with a heartbreaking confession, with scenes among the women at the mansion. One woman decides to make a break for it: "It is Noraida, swimming in the debris-filled water, her brightly dyed hair like streamers in her wake. We watch as she pushes aside a plastic cup, a sheet of plywood, an umbrella floating upside down and bobbing along." Such irresistible moments of rebellion and bravery define this tale.

Perfect timing for a Scheherazade-style account of Cuban history.

Pub Date: April 7th, 2015
ISBN: 978-1-60945-252-0
Page count: 304pp
Publisher: Europa Editions
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 2015




10 NOVELS TO LOSE YOURSELF IN:

FictionWHERE THEY FOUND HER by Kimberly McCreight
by Kimberly McCreight
FictionTHE WOMAN WHO READ TOO MUCH by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani
by Bahiyyih Nakhjavani
FictionTHE FAIR FIGHT by Anna Freeman
by Anna Freeman
FictionTHE FISHERMEN by Chigozie Obioma
by Chigozie Obioma
FictionTHE GIVEN WORLD by Marian Palaia
by Marian Palaia

SIMILAR BOOKS SUGGESTED BY OUR CRITICS:

FictionLIFE OF PI by Yann Martel
by Yann Martel
FictionTWO IF BY SEA by Jacquelyn Mitchard
by Jacquelyn Mitchard
FictionTHE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS by Isabel Allende
by Isabel Allende