Huergo writes with heart even though her account lacks consistency.


The enduring impact of the Cuban revolution on the lives of ordinary citizens is the subject of Huergo’s disjointed debut novel.

On the 50th anniversary of the Moncada Barracks raid, Fidel Pérez, lovesick and inebriated, ventures onto his brother’s balcony after a night of drinking. Rafael hears his brother’s cries as the railing gives way and rushes to save him, but both he and his brother plummet to their deaths. As their battered bodies lay on the ground below, the neighbors gather, and Fidel’s former lover’s cries are heard above the throng as she laments that Fidel and his brother have fallen. The shouts are taken up by the crowd, and as rolling blackouts hit Havana, its citizens misconstrue the meaning of the words and sweep toward the town’s center. The author focuses on four individuals among the crowd that converges at La Plaza de la Revolución: Saturnina, an elderly woman who lives on the streets and still grieves the loss of her son, Tomás, a Fidelista who once provided food and shelter to anti-Batista dissenters and who she believes will live again; professor Pedro Valle, arrested and tortured by the Castro regime 10 years ago and now flooded with remorse as he “converses” with his friend and colleague, Mario, who “was disappeared” as a subversive; Justicio, who witnessed the Pérez brothers' deaths and ekes out a living with his bicycle cab; and young Camilo, a university student who knows no other life than the one under Castro’s fist. His mother abandoned the family when she fled Cuba in 1980, and now he finds himself becoming a spokesperson for a new hope. Huergo’s writing is expressive, and her opening premise is creative, but what follows is often difficult to understand. Her frequent use of Spanish dialogue and her didactic approach to storytelling often interrupt the flow, and the reader must reread passages several times in an often fruitless attempt to grasp meaning and differentiate between past and present.

Huergo writes with heart even though her account lacks consistency.

Pub Date: April 2, 2013

ISBN: 978-1-60953-095-2

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Unbridled Books

Review Posted Online: Jan. 6, 2013

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 15, 2013

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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More about grief and tragedy than romance.


Five friends meet on their first day of kindergarten at the exclusive Atwood School and remain lifelong friends through tragedy and triumph.

When Gabby, Billy, Izzie, Andy and Sean meet in the toy kitchen of the kindergarten classroom on their first day of school, no one can know how strong the group’s friendship will remain. Despite their different personalities and interests, the five grow up together and become even closer as they come into their own talents and life paths. But tragedy will strike and strike again. Family troubles, abusive parents, drugs, alcohol, stress, grief and even random bad luck will put pressure on each of them individually and as a group. Known for her emotional romances, Steel makes a bit of a departure with this effort that follows a group of friends through young adulthood. But even as one tragedy after another befalls the friends, the impact of the events is blunted by a distant narrative style that lacks emotional intensity. 

More about grief and tragedy than romance.

Pub Date: July 24, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-385-34321-3

Page Count: 322

Publisher: Delacorte

Review Posted Online: Nov. 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Dec. 1, 2012

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