This interminable novel about Cubans in Tampa records, chiefly through dialogue, the life of a large and emotional family- most of them women. There are several elderly mothers with grown children: Elena, who has made a rich marriage and tends to run the others; Robert, married to a New York girl, a failure of sorts; and Clara, who has a weakness for men and a son, Jimmy, by her second ex-husband- Esteban. Elena tries to persuade them all to come to Cuba; Esteban appeals to Robert to do a little gun-running for the Rebels instead; everyone talks about everyone else's problems. Finally Jimmy comes down with appendicitis and dies after the operation. Elena's last attempt to manipulate the family fails and they all decide to stay in Tampa for the wake.... There is good first-hand knowledge of this matriarchy and some of its conflicts in an alien society, but it is diffused and the story lines tend to dissipate.