Posted April 16, 2008on:
I don’t know about this book. Not to be mean but my first reaction on seeing the cover was, Hmmmm, shouldn’t this have an Oprah book club sticker? the NYT’s Kakutani found it “completely original”? Why am I not heartened. I had the feeling it was going to be one of those melodramatic, multi-generational matriarchal family sagas — I don’t really do multi-generational family sagas. (It’s why I have Thomas Mann’s Magic Mountain and not Buddenbrooks. Also it was name checked in Norwegian Wood a lot but, yeah, I’ve seen ol’ Budden in used book stores and haven’t gotten past that word in the various novel summaries.) Anything labelled a “saga” gets a suspicious glance.
I’m not even past page 20 yet and already I’m annoyed. I think she cheated in the first chapter — couldn’t figure out a way to start the story right so she split it two under the headings of different names and proceeded to give us character profiles. The paragraph organization seems out of whack. I suppose Garcia could have done it for artistic effect — the grandmother at the beginning is a bit addled and unsettled from her husband’s death in a different country so the structure reflects this. But it’s not working for me. The sentences don’t hang together and I feel disoriented within paragraphs wondering what the hell I’m supposed to be getting from any of this.
Already the expected fat but stern, lovable and quirky female character has popped up in the form of a nurse-turned-baker.
I’m still going with it. It’s under 300 pages and it’s not awful. For a decidedly more effective, less colourful, romantic and quirky take on Cuba see When in Cuba, a photography feature by Boogie on First Magazine. If you like what you see there check out the rest on his website (click on “Cuba”).