SKYWRITING by Margarita Engle
Kirkus Star


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From poet and novelist Engle (Singing at Cuba, 1993, not reviewed): another lyrical and joyous affirmation of the human spirit's ability to subvert and survive -- this one as much a history of Cuba as of one family's long fight for justice. ""The heart of the island,"" the story's young narrator asserts, ""is a magnet, enormous and powerful, pulling me back through time and space, pulling me in and down, swirling [in] the eye of the hurricane."" And, in 1993, when Carmen Peregr¡n visits Cuba and meets half-brother Camilo for the first time, she irrevocably enters the eye of that hurricane. Her father, a famous Cuban revolutionary who had been assassinated before either of his children were born, had married two women. One was Marisol, now a high-level functionary in Cuba's government; the other was the American mother of Carmen, a would-be revolutionary who returned to the States and spent her life traveling with her daughter and selling ancient artifacts. Now, this mother's death in a recent hang-gliding accident has impelled Carmen to meet Camilo, with whom she's corresponded since childhood. Their meeting is brief but significant as Camilo, entrusting Carmen with a package of documents not to be opened until she's back in the US, immediately sets off on a raft for Florida. When he's discovered and later imprisoned in Cuba, Carmen returns home and dedicates herself to freeing him. Along the way she learns of Castro's role in her father's death and uncovers family secrets going back to Spain 500 before. Camilo is eventually released; Carmen marries botanist Alec; and the reunited family regularly gets together even in the future -- the story ends in the year 2033 in a now-free Cuba. All these events are enhanced by lapidary evocations of nature, and an urgent, compelling love for family, land, and freedom. A remarkable work -- and significant contribution -- that seeks to understand the ravages wrought by oppressors past and present.

Pub Date: July 1st, 1995
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Bantam