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Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes (The Albany Cycle #8)

3.22  ·  Rating Details  ·  434 Ratings  ·  97 Reviews
From the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of "Ironweed," a dramatic novel of love and revolution from one of America's finest writers

When journalist Daniel Quinn meets Ernest Hemingway at the Floridita bar in Havana, Cuba, in 1957, he has no idea that his own affinity for simple, declarative sentences will change his life radically overnight.

So begins William Kennedy's latest
ebook, 304 pages
Published September 1st 2011 by Penguin Books
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,126)
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switterbug (Betsey)
William Kennedy, winner of the Pulitzer in 1983 for Ironweed, continues on his “Albany cycle” with his latest work, set in both Cuba and Albany. The title, which refers to the protective Santería god; the red and white beads of fire and logic; and the spectator shoes popular in the “Swing-era” days, has a syncopated rhythm all its own, a snazzy, jazzy, bebop, off-riff beat that invites the reader to shake a leg and put some sashay in your stroll.

The jazzy structure of the novel is offbeat, also,
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
I struggled doggedly through the first 95 pages because the plot really interested me, but it was just too chaotic and hard to follow. Finally my brain shut down and refused to read another page. I felt a little better about giving it up after reading some reviews from serious William Kennedy fans who said he was not at his best in this one.

One of the things I found very frustrating was the way he introduces so many minor characters with very little to distinguish them, and then keeps referring
Sep 07, 2014 Jeffrey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I moved to Albany the year after the events in this book took place and had no idea that anything of the sort was going on, but that doesn't mean it wasn't. William Kennedy always makes me feel like I live in a different world, at a different level, and I probably do. I was a student at the time, anyway, so I was sort of busy. So much for history!

This was very well written, though I think I missed a lot. The switch from Cuba to Albany was abrupt but I was able to catch up soon enough. I do love
Dec 14, 2011 Keith rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The first third of this book is a delightful tribute to Ernest Hemingway. Hemingway appears several times as a supporting character, and these scenes are funny and true to Hemingway's personality. The narrative of a journalist from Albany NY in Cuba during the revolution fits well with Hemingway's literary terrain. I enjoyed the dramatic love story as well.

The middle third of the book is a hodgepodge of scenes back in Albany NY. A variety of characters are depicted and the only unifying element
Jim Leffert
Jan 19, 2013 Jim Leffert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“Castro’s revolution against Batista’s brutal dictatorship in 1957, and corrupt machine politics and racial unrest in Albany, NY, following Robert Kennedy’s assassination, in 1968: Compare, contrast, and draw connections.” In Chango’s Beads and Two-Toned Shoes, Kennedy answers this essay question primarily by drawing connections. It’s all part of a perpetual revolution, according to the protagonist, Daniel Quinn.

Quinn is a young journalist from Albany who travels to Cuba, just as his grandfathe
Nov 22, 2011 Robert rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes continues William Kennedy's exploration of Albany, New York's political and street life with a substantial excursion in the first portion of the book into the world of Castro's revolution in Cuba and then, some years later, a reintegration of that setting into the 1969 killing of Robert Kennedy and the concommitant urban unrest that already was boiling in Albany after the assassination of Martin Luther King.

This is a loose novel full of short, declarative senten
CHANGO’S BEADS AND TWO-TONE SHOES. (2011). William Kennedy. ***.
Kennedy is one of my favorite writers, and his “Albany” series is one of the best to be found in American literature. This novel, however, is not up to what I think is his best level. The word I want to use is “disjointed.” He has a story to tell that ultimately leads back to Albany, but you wonder why half of the book is devoted to the doings of Daniel Quinn (whom we have met in prevous novels) in Cuba. OK – so it’s background, bu
Fred Mendez
I admit that I don't do much research on works of fiction. My choices are typically determined by what has won awards or what I heard about on NPRs Fresh Air. I think I picked this one up because it was noted as one of the best of the year by the NYT. I really enjoyed the first half of the book, when it was based in revolutionary Cuba. Great descriptive narrative, and a wonderful incorporation of political history into a dramatic storyline. The fast forward a few years later, but in the US, fell ...more
Apr 27, 2013 Marvin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
This novel of revolutions is precisely the kind of book that I often like very much: an intimately personal story with striking characters set in the midst of larger political/cultural change. It even has quite a bit about music. And large chunks of the novel are, indeed, very striking; I particularly liked the way the author treated the main character's father with dementia. But just as I would get thoroughly wrapped up in one story, the author would fly off in another direction, and I'd be sor ...more
John Christian
Kennedy is one of the great American authors of the last 50 years, and I've read everything he's written. I think part of why I stayed in Albany as long as I did was because I wanted to know and understand the milieu even better, though of course this is far from necessary.

That said, this is probably my second least favorite novel of his (after The Ink Truck). The novel is about revolution and rife with jazz, our American revolutionary music, and it reads like jazz -- it's no mean feat to find
Jun 26, 2012 Ken rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is a kind of novel that might not appeal to all readers. Although entertaining, I felt it was more a series of very well written scenes that happened to be loosely connected. The novel is divided into three broad sections. The first we meet Daniel Quinn, one of the central characters, as a young child in 1936. In the next section the the action switches to Cuba, and we meet Ernest Hemingway and learn of Fidel Castro's relationship with his people and country. And, the third and longest sect ...more
Brad Hodges
May 11, 2012 Brad Hodges rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"'Remove the colon and semicolon keys from your typewriter,'" said Hemingway. 'Shun adverbs, strenuously.'" This advice is given to Daniel Quinn, a newspaperman looking for stories in Havana during the late '57. A lover of short, declarative sentences, Quinn strides up to the great writer in the Floradita and introduces himself. This will draw him into grand romantic adventure.

William Kennedy also seems to prescribe to Hemingway's advice, for Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes, which unites Quinn
Nov 06, 2011 A. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dynamite novel in Kennedy's Albany series. This guy can just write. It doesn't matter what's going on or even who the characters are, each sentence, paragraph is a joy. That said the book has a fascinating plot. The first section is set in 1957 Cuba when Castro's revolution is gaining steam and Hemingway is prowling the nightclubs. Daniel Quinn, a reporter from Albany, is there to capture the details and to enmesh himself in the excitement. These scenes are alive with engaging dialogue, complex ...more
Jan 25, 2012 Peter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bill Kennedy's latest can certainly be read by someone who has never read any of his other novels, but readers who have read Ironweed, Very Old Bones and the rest of his works will feel quite comfortable in reading Chango's Beads and Two-Tone Shoes.

The title reflects the two parts of the novel. Chango's beads refers to a mythical character from the Santeria tradition in Cuba where the protagonist Daniel Quinn ventures to quell his fear of boredeom. Tone-tone shoes come into play in the second h
Sep 06, 2013 Robert rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
After a fairly shaky start, this book unfolds to become at very least equal to the other books in William Kennedy's Albany Cycle.

Although the first two parts of the book were essential in terms of introducing the characters and laying the foundations of the plot, I found them slow going - and given that my knowledge of Cuba, its politics and indigenous religions is practically zero - not a little confusing.

It's when the action moves to Albany, NY that it really seem to find its stride - in fact
Steve Burch
May 14, 2012 Steve Burch rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I love William Kennedy's work, with Ironweed and Billy Phelan's Greatest Game being my particular favorites. But like Faulkner (a connection he must get tired of hearing), Kennedy's Albany and the Quinns and Phelans are an extraordinary creation. At first I feared that Kennedy's voice would have faltered due to his age. But I rejoiced at his vigor and invention. Whether this will be his final word on the cycle is impossible to know (though - and I wonder if anyone also thought this - ) it did se ...more
It took me a long time, like at least 3/4 of the way through this book to finally kind of get it and get into it. Hemingway appears as a character early in the novel and we're told that the protagonist likes Hemingway's simple, declarative sentences. Throughout the book Kennedy uses simple, declarative sentences as both a sort of homage and subversion of Hemingway, collapsing volumes of emotion and history into a few short phrases. It makes for sort of confusing reading because the background to ...more
Alice Meloy
Kennedy leaves Albany, New York, the site of most of his other novels,
but just for awhile. Young journalist Daniel Quinn goes to Cuba in
1957 to write a novel, and his life changes as a result. He meets a
young revolutionary woman whom he marries, thereby becoming involved
in the Cuban Revolution himself. But this is a family saga, and the
story continues when Quinn returns to Albany and is tossed along
life's road by his Cuban connections, the lifestyle of his hot-blooded
wife, dealing with his aging
Agnes Benis
I may have liked this better if I had not put it down several times. The plot ranges far and wide from Fidel Castro revolution against Batista, Robert Kennedy assassination, civil rights unrest, Albany politics and Ernest Hemingway and Bing Crosby as characters, neither one favorites of mine. My favorite character was GEorge Quinn, the newspaperman's father who has dementia. He provides a touching nostalgia for an Albany of the old days. The chango beads, the love story and the fast forward in t ...more
Jan 13, 2013 Birdie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
This is a hard book to describe. Daniel Quinn is a reporter following after his namesake and grandfather. He begins in Cuba in 1938 where he is speaking with Hemingway in a local bar. During that time he meets Renata, his future wife. She is exotic and in love with love. Finding herself on the run after the Directorio, a rebel group she is involved with attempts to murder the Cuban president Batista, she and Quinn seek out Fidel Castro. After marrying Renata, Quinn talks to Fidel about his rebel ...more
Catherine Woodman
haven't read a book by William Kennedy since my college years, when I read the 'Ironweed' trilogy (now up to eight books I believe, but that was the early 1980's). Then I was impressed with the sparseness of his writing, and how one place (Albany) could be focused on and yet be generalizable to the experience of being American.
This book, three decades later, offers those same qualities. It opens in the 1930's, quickly moves to Havana in the late 1950's (wih both Castro and Hemingway making appea
Susan Emmet
Feb 16, 2012 Susan Emmet rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A rollercoaster of a Kennedy book! Can't say I loved it. Can say I loved many parts/aspects of it. The trip back in time, in Albany and Cuba, the cast of intersecting characters, the evidence of real history, the lingo, the music and dancing, the reportorial pacing, the often vivid capturing of people/time/place - all quite remarkable.
Sometimes thrown by unclear timeline, speakers, placement/setting. Moves maybe jazz-like?
Writer Daniel Quinn offers some centering to things and the cast of charac
Jul 05, 2012 Mimi rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
The book is in two main section, the first and most fun is set in Cuba while Fidel is still in the mountains during the revolution. The main character, a young journalist, first meets Hemingway in La Floridita, falls in love with a beautiful gun runner & devotee of Chango, and then goes on to meet Fidel. Most of these same characters, and many many more, we meet again in the second, sometimes interminable, section many years later in a politically corrupt Albany NY, the night of Bobby Kenned ...more
Kennedy's attempts at transcendent story telling only succeed half of the time; the hero, a fearless journalist, speaks dialogue straight from a movie script, yet descriptions of the character's feelings lose the reader in abstract thought. The plot jives between the 1920s Cuban revolution and Kennedy's assassination in the 1950s, with some historical nonfiction value.
Mike  Davis
Sep 28, 2011 Mike Davis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was an interesting book. At once both prone to slow reading and fast run-on sentences, it chronicles the adventures of a newspaper writer in the 1930's in a style dependent upon clichés, metaphor, hip-speak and running references to 1930's pop music lyrics. I found it a bit difficult at times to follow the chronology and to know who was speaking, as narratives were used with and without quotation marks and often mixed within a paragraph structure. Nevertheless, things seemed to eventually f ...more
Tim Hilton
Mar 29, 2014 Tim Hilton rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Tremendously disappointing. I struggle to believe this was written by the same man who wrote the wonderful Albany trilogy. It was as if Rosemary Rogers had suddenly taken control of his brain and caused him to write this drivel. I couldn't finish it.
John  Bellamy
With "Chango's Beads" William Kennedy has accomplished two feats I thought impossible: he's not only written a bad book but one that I could not finish. Now I yield to no one in my appreciation of Kennedy's Albany novels; his oddly gothic sentimentality is unique and has never failed to move me in the past, all the way from "Legs" through "Roscoe" and all books in between. But "Chango's Beads" seems a lazy and often over-written, if badly underedited romance of Cuba in the Age of Fidel. Indeed, ...more
Sep 02, 2011 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I won this novel " Chango's Beads And Two-Tone Shoes" through Goodreads Giveaway.

When journalist Daniel Quinn meets Ernest Hemingway at the Floridita bar in Havana, Cuba, in 1957, he has no idea that his life will never be the same.This is a tale of revolutionary intrigue, crooked politicians, gangsters, Albany race riots, and the rise of Fidel Castro. Quinn's journey carries him through the night clubs and jungles of Cuba and into the newsrooms and racially charged streets of Albany on the day
Jan 24, 2012 thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Not my usual read but I really enjoyed it. I never read any Kennedy books before (He is famous for "Ironweed"). This book has a horrible title (The Two-Tone Shoes don't surface until the last 75 pages.) Kennedy recreates Batista/Castro era Cuba and Albany during the Robert Kennedy assassination as only a novelist can. This is is an example of where good fiction is much more illustrative and informative than non-fiction.

I didn't love everything. The addle-minded George Quinn character wore me ou
Oct 26, 2011 Eric rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
An absolute beaut. Kennedy at the top of his game, better for the stylistic and specific nods to jazz, as noted by Sayles in his NYT review. The Cuba section took a little while to develop; some of the hard-boiled dialog seemed a bit much and the Hemingway meetings didn't click at first, but eventually did. The Bing and Castro scenes are great. Paralleling the overthrow of Batista and US race riots allows Kennedy to explore revolution and justice from different angles, indeed. The journalism/fic ...more
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William Joseph Kennedy is an American writer and journalist born and raised in Albany, New York. Many of his novels feature the interaction of members of the fictional Irish-American Phelan family, and make use of incidents of Albany's history and the supernatural. Kennedy's works include The Ink Truck (1969), Legs (1975), Billy Phelan's Greatest Game (1978), Ironweed (1983, winner of 1984 Pulitze ...more
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