cover image The Strange Case of Rachel K

The Strange Case of Rachel K

Rachel Kushner. New Directions, $19.95 (96p) ISBN 978-0-8112-2421-5

Kushner (The Flamethrowers) imagines Cuban history in this small collection of strong prose. In %E2%80%9CThe Great Exception," a Portuguese admiral reminiscent of Christopher Columbus in 1492 discovers Cuba. Hundreds of years later, a woman named Aloha moves from Colorado to Havana where she discovers a new life with Ferdinand K, a Frenchman who sells fake war footage of naval battles between American and Spanish fleets. In %E2%80%9CDebouchment," a conversation among patrons at a nightclub, and an illegal radio broadcast by a man known as %E2%80%9Cthe faith healer" delve into violent political conflicts that shaped Cuba in the 20th century. And, in the title story, Christian de la Mazi%C3%A8re, the fictionalized French Nazi from Kushner's novel, Telex from Cuba, shares an intimate talk with cabaret dancer Rachel K about her origins and her relationships with both President Carlos Pr%C3%ADo Socarr%C3%A1s and the dictator Fulgencio Batista. These narratives are bridged by characters, place, and resurfacing imagery. Kushner's writing is fluid and clear and possesses a rhythm as determined as an ocean current. She navigates the limits of language, seeking new or uncommon words like %E2%80%9Cbatiking" and %E2%80%9Cflumed" to fit the descriptions of the world she maps. In this slim book, readers will encounter three stories of terrific depth. (Feb.)