A young American woman has to choose between her Cuban lover—the father of her child—and the older rico she has married. And in novelist Thorndike’s (Anna Delaney’s Child, 2011, etc.) telling, this fictionalized history plays out against the early years of the Cuban revolution.
Clare Miller, professional photographer, meets Camilo Cienfuegos at a photo shoot at the Waldorf Astoria where he is a line cook. They fall in love; she gets pregnant; he gets deported and joins Fidel Castro’s revolution. In fact, he becomes one of Fidel’s top lieutenants. Meanwhile, Clare travels to Cuba with her daughter, Alameda, hoping to find Camilo, though she fears that he is dead. She meets Domingo Beltran, a widower who offers her work as a photographer. He is a good man, and Clare marries him, if only to give Ala a father. But of course Camilo isn’t dead, and very shortly he arrives in Havana as one of the conquering barbudos (bearded ones). Clare leaves Domingo. Camilo does love her, and Ala may accept him in time, but he is also deeply loyal to Fidel and caught up in the madness of the day. On a flight to the eastern provinces to bring an old comrade to “justice,” his plane disappears. Shortly thereafter, Domingo quits Cuba for Miami. Then the new regime forces Clare and Ala into exile. The historical Camilo Cienfuegos and his pilot were in fact never found. But this is fiction, and he survives. Domingo surfaces again…and we will leave it at that. Thorndike is a talented, experienced writer, and Clare and Camilo especially are fully developed, attractive characters. The dynamic between Camilo and Fidel is fascinating. Camilo is a joyous revolutionary and wants a revolution that really does fulfill its promises to the poor and dispossessed. Fidel, on the other hand, is a dangerous ideologue whose first directive is to eliminate perceived threats. (It’s very likely that the crucial plane crash was no accident at all.)
A highly recommended rendering of a love affair and mysterious slice of Cuban history.