Cristina Garcia, Dreaming in Cuban.
New York: Ballentine Books, 1993. 246 pps. trade paperback.
Dreaming in Cuban is a novel written in the lyrical style. Husband surprised me
by picking this book up at a sale and further astonished me when he read through
it and liked it. "You like Spanish lyricism," I taunted him over his morning coffee.
Intrigued by the idea that husband was reading such a novel, I read it also. Last
Dreaming in Cuban introduces us to several branches of one family scattered
in several places. The grandmother, a strong atheistic woman named Celia,
remains in Cuba but has preternatural conversations with a granddaughter
named Pilar nightly. Pilar lives in Brooklyn with her mother Lourdes (who is
one of Celia's daughters) and her father Rufino. Lourdes runs a bakery and gets
fat on the pastries.
Lourdes' younger sister lives in Havana and her baby brother lives overseas in
Czechoslovakia. There are also relatives in Florida that send Pilar back to Brooklyn
when she runs away in an effort to get back to Cuba. Pilar is the most intriguing
woman-child in the novel. She is artsy but not insane. She is there when her
grandfather is sent to Brooklyn for cancer treatments. (He dies). She is the
catalyst for a trip to Cuba with Lourdes in time to witness Celia's passing on.
The thing is, both Lourdes and the middle sister Felicia go insane. Felicia is
intoxicated with the (Cuban) revolution. Lourdes (who is as anti-Castro as
Felicia is pro) has an unhappy marriage to a cheating husband. Yet Cuba
still calls to Lourdes. She reminisces about birds she had over there in an
aviary once in times past.
But the glory days never quite return. And the old haw about never being
able to return home again holds true.
The language in Dreaming in Cuban is rich as befitting the genre. The
novel is sentimental, perhaps syrupy. I found myself liking Celia and
Pilar the best out of all of the characters in the story. The forays into
Santeria were also of interest to me since there are some who practice
here in my hometown.
Cautiously recommended, for those who are devoted to the lyrical
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