cover image Ruins


Achy Obejas, . . Akashic, $15.95 (250pp) ISBN 978-1-933354-69-9

In 1994 Havana, times are hard: for maladroitly named Usnavy and his family, home is one windowless, sparsely furnished room, and rationing is so tight that “pieces of a blanket... beaten and marinated in spices and a little beef broth” pass for sandwich meat. When not managing the local bodega or playing dominoes with childhood friends, earnest Usnavy tries to keep his out-of-work wife and 14-year-old daughter from despair and disillusionment. His one treasure, as precious as his mother's legacy, is a “most extraordinary lamp… of multicolor stained glass and shaped like an oversized dome.” Around this lamp (a genuine Tiffany?), poet and novelist Obejas spins a mystery with political ramifications. Keeping within the tight frame of Usnavy's day-to-day life, Obejas confronts the ruin of Cuba; the fate of those who escape to the States, and those who remain; and broad issues of religious and sexual identity. With the deft and evocative detail of a poet's, Obejas's prose is as illuminating and honest as her struggling protagonist. (Mar.)