Mangos, Bananas, and Coconuts: A Cuban Love Story

Himilce Novas, Author
Himilce Novas, Author Arte Publico Press $19.95 (162p) ISBN 978-1-55885-092-7
Paperback - 159 pages - 978-1-57322-613-4
Paperback - 978-1-57322-617-2
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A disarming blend of magic realism and pungent social satire, this extraordinary debut novel is an incandescent tale of love, double incest, mistaken identity and immigrant dreams. In Cuba in the late 1950s, Christian faith healer Arnaldo Saavedra conducts a love affair with Patricia Ona, daughter of the owner of the local sugar mill. Patricia dies giving birth to a daughter, Esmeralda, whom Arnaldo kidnaps and takes to Spanish Harlem. But Arnaldo remains unaware that, shortly before she died, Patricia also gave birth to Esmeralda's twin brother, Juan. Adopted at birth by his wealthy grandparents, the boy eventually moves with them to Miami's Cuban exile community. Throughout her youth, Esmeralda is sexually abused by Arnaldo, who rationalizes the incest as sacred love, a vicarious communion with Patricia. On her 29th birthday, Esmeralda meets Juan--now a melancholy, Yale-educated portrait painter who, on an irresistible impulse, has traveled to New York. Unaware of their common blood, the two fall in love, their incestuous relationship triggering the jealous rage of Arnaldo, who ultimately realizes that his daughter's suitor is his missing son. Poet, playwright and journalist Novas (Everything You Need to Know about Latino History) saddles her wondrous tale with an unsatisfying and disturbing denouement that's tragic and upbeat at once. Even so, her lyrical, fiercely intelligent novel, crammed with mystical phenomena and allusions to pop culture, adroitly probes the pressures facing immigrants adjusting to Yanqui realities. (Mar.)
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