THE AGUERO SISTERS by Cristina García


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A remembrance of things past in which several generations of a Cuban family intersect and collide throughout the ornate and highly polished narrative of novelist Garcia (Dreaming in Cuban, 1992), whose earlier evocations of homeland and exile have been refined to an even greater degree. Like many Latin Americans, Constancia and Reina Aguero read their history elliptically, coming back again and again to the same point without progressing directly ahead. We learn gradually that they are the descendants of cultivated peasants who relocated to Havana and eventually enjoyed modest success as scholars and artists. Their father, Ignacio Aguero, was a professor of biology at the University of Havana, and his father was a famous lector, who read novels and poetry aloud to an audience of cigar-makers. For most of their lives, Constancia and Reina have been separated from each other, and Constancia leaves Cuba entirely at an early age to live in exile in Miami, where she manages to establish a successful cosmetics business. The decisive event of their childhood was the disappearance of their mother, whose absence effectively breaks up the family and haunts both of the girls for the whole of their lives. Reina also leaves Cuba, much later than her sister, and slowly the truth behind their mother's death is revealed through the flashbacks of Ignacio himself, whose bird-hunting expeditions become the source of tragedy. To some extent the history of the Aguero family becomes a shorthand history of Cuba itself, especially in the person of Ignacio, who is born on Cuban Independence Day in 1904 and lives through the revolutions and dictatorships that marked the politics of the island. As in many epics, we are presented with a bold and very richly detailed portrait that is here made the more comprehensible and vivid through the microcosm of family history. Fluid, graceful, and extremely rewarding: a work of high seriousness and rich detail. (First printing of 50,000)

Pub Date: May 8th, 1997
ISBN: 0-679-45090-4
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: Knopf
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1st, 1997


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