HAVANA LIBRE by Robert Arellano


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At the behest of Castro's government, a Cuban doctor is sent to Miami in 1997 to find out who has been sponsoring a series of terrorist bombings in Havana in this new novel by Arellano (Havana Lunar, 2009, etc.)

Dr. Mano Rodriguez finds himself in the aftermath of a hotel bombing, unable to save a victim bleeding to death before him. Soon afterward, he accepts a proposition that he travel to Miami to uncover information about the man behind the bombings—an ardent anti-communist out to avenge himself on Castro's revolution—and what the next targets might be. Mano's trip is complicated by the fact that his conduit to the man is the father he has never met. Meanwhile, Mano is trying to provide a base of stability for a pregnant country girl who has come to the city and whom he doesn't want to see wind up as just one more of Havana's desperate poor. The mechanics of the plot often take a back seat to the detailing of the deprivation of life under Castro: the blackouts, the goods that are sparse and, when available, shoddy, the sense of never having had enough to eat. All this detail is not extrinsic to the story, but there are times when it gets in the way of its momentum. It takes almost half the book for Mano to get to Miami, and the climax, cutting between three different locations as the seconds to another hotel bombing tick away, is both undeniably tense and a bit rushed.

This novel is rich in atmosphere and political critique; if only they had been more seamlessly woven into the meat of the story.

Pub Date: Dec. 5th, 2017
ISBN: 978-1-61775-583-5
Page count: 224pp
Publisher: Akashic
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 1st, 2017


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