Broken Paradise

Cecilia Samartin, Author . Atria $23.95 (340p) ISBN 978-0-7432-8779-1

In her interesting but flawed debut, Samartin explores the contrasting fates of two young women after the Cuban revolution—Nora García, who escapes to the United States with her family, and her cousin Alicia, who stays behind. The novel is strongest in its first section, which renders the cousins' idyllic and privileged childhood in pre-Castro Havana. The portrayal of Nora and Alicia's friendship is convincing, especially in Nora's simultaneous devotion to her more confident and beautiful cousin. Their time on the beach and at their great-aunt's sugarcane plantation give way to the bombs, televised executions and panic of the revolution. After Nora and her family escape, settling in California, the cousins maintain their friendship over two decades through letters as intimate as their girlhood conversations. Nora returns to Cuba in 1981 to find her childhood Eden destroyed and a very ill Alicia, who has resorted to prostitution to support herself and her daughter, suffering from "the virus." Glaring historical inaccuracies and a hokey climax undermine Nora's return to Cuba, though the book's first half is powerfully realized. (Feb.)

Reviewed on: 11/13/2006
Release date: 02/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
Open Ebook - 320 pages - 978-1-4165-3833-2
Paperback - 340 pages - 978-1-4165-5039-6
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