THE OTHER SIDE OF PARADISE by Julia Cooke

THE OTHER SIDE OF PARADISE

Life in the New Cuba

KIRKUS REVIEW

Following multiple trips to the island—organized by an unnamed friend, the “Communist fairy godfather”—first-time author Cooke (Writing/The New School) chronicles the lives of nine Cubans and their families in the years immediately after Raúl Castro replaced his brother as president.

"I wanted to collect the stories of today's young Cubans in the fragile pillow of transitional time between Fidel and whatever would come next,” writes the author. “I wanted a hint at what their revolution could resemble.” Despite diverse backgrounds, families and future goals, the stories of these young Cuban nationals share many similarities: an overwhelming sense of unease, the haze of unrest and the lack of an obvious path toward change. Some of the author’s subjects include Lucía, a recent graduate of the University of Havana who was “putting in the two years of social service that ‘paid for’ the degree”; and Sandra, a prostitute who viewed her plans for the future as “clouds she thought she’d walk into; they’d envelop her and then everything would be different.” Not all of them want to leave their homeland, but all struggle with an ever-changing flow of plans for achieving a stable life. The book flows naturally from subject to subject, not chronologically but still organically. Cooke revisits each of her subjects at different times during their lives, which helps to round out the narrative, and the inclusion of their families and friends also adds welcome depth. Though the author does not provide a resolution to each of the stories, despite the multiple visits and a one-year-later denouement, this lack of an ending is mostly a function of the still-changing Cuba. Despite a few meandering, unfocused sections, Cooke introduces a world that somehow makes sense in its lack of reason, as understood by American readers.

An excellent taste of Cuba today, without tourist plans or political agenda.

Pub Date: April 1st, 2014
ISBN: 978-1-58005-531-4
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Seal Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 2014




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