An emotional coming-of-age story posed against the backdrop of the Cuban revolution.
The year is 1957. Batista is struggling to maintain control of Cuba while Castro gathers his rebels in the mountains. Thirteen-year-old Adela Santiago and her family are living near Havana when the revolution comes to their front door in the form of her cousin who has just survived a bombing at the Hotel Nacional. People are disappearing, gunshots ring through the night, and life as they knew it is gone. A colorful, multiracial cast of characters fills Adela’s life and neighborhood through chapters that feel like individual vignettes. Through her journey, Adela evolves and begins to figure out what kind of person she wants to be as she learns that even those we love most can disappoint us. Although the revolution is a driving force, filling the narrative with tension and fear, Adela’s story is front and center. The conflict is presented in a way that demonstrates the complexity of the situation in Cuba, including how most people suffered and lost at the hands of both Batista and Fidel, who were two sides of the same coin. At times the book reads like a checklist of all things Cuban (Dominoes? Check. Rum? Check. Ropa vieja? Check.), and the use of imagery from Jose Martí’s “Cultiva una rosa blanca” also becomes heavy-handed.
A good introduction to Cuba’s complex history. (author’s note) (Historical fiction. 14-18)