Mel's Reviews > Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy

Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire
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Aug 08, 08

bookshelves: nonfiction

** spoiler alert ** So what? All of my training in creative writing has taught me to ask this question, so what? Carlos Eire does not adequately answer this question in his text Waiting for Snow in Havana.
Sure, he overcomes a great deal in his life. We all do in different ways. And his anger is still ripe—over ripe. He has not conquered that in any way. So where is the “changed character” in this text that makes it successful? I don’t see one. There are hints, here and there, that perhaps there is change—he evolves from a homeless Cuban boy in Miami to a graduate student. But how? He doesn’t offer any explanation for this metamorphosis. It is, in fact, mentioned in passing.
Eire spends considerable time in the text wallowing in his anger and self-pity. He has been robbed of his country, his father, and his inheritance. Fidel Castro is guilty in the first instance and his adopted brother Ernesto in the second two.
The story does offer an example of how one could weave important history into a personal narrative, at least on a surface level. Eire does not return to fill in his childhood gaps – why does Castro overthrow Batista? What are his ideals? What are the rebels who face the firing squad standing up for? What ideal do they defend, other than opposing Castro? Without a solid grasp of history, these details are lost to the reader. These details that clearly shaped the author’s sense of reality, at least in this text. It left me asking, so what?
And Ernesto. Eire’s resentment for his adopted brother still resides in the heart of a ten year old. It is bitter and adds nothing to the overall story line of the author’s survival and yet Eire returns again and again to the demonic Ernesto. By the time it is revealed that Ernesto was trying (it is implied unsuccessfully) to molest Eire, I am already beyond caring; so what? There is no resolution at the end of the text Eire has not resolved this issue.
Intellectually, I am aware there is change and growth in the protagonist – as the book exists at all. But my knowing is off the page. Eire does not give his evolution, just his anger. How does one go from homeless in Miami to a dishwasher in Chicago to a professor at UVA? The book was likely cathartic for the author, but left me festering and asking so what.

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