SarahC's Reviews > Dreaming in Cuban

Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García
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's review
Jan 06, 2011

it was ok
bookshelves: american-20th-c, latino

Actually 2 1/2 stars---

Dreaming in Cuban is one of those novels that is somewhat a struggle to read. It is interesting but at the same time disjointed. Perhaps the author hopes to represent the disjointed lives of Cubans and Cuban-Americans during the Batistan government and after the Cuban Revolution by using a very disjointed narrative. I feel that method of writing isn’t necessary to get the point across.

The novel describes the lives of three generations of a Cuban family prior to and since the revolution that overturned their country and redefined everything. The central character Celia del Pino grew up in a broken family and many of her struggles are truly personal. As her own children reach adulthood, the sanctioned government falls to the revolution and the del Pinos become more fragmented. Two daughters, Felicia and Lourdes, make separate choices between the United States and Cuba, but their common thread is that of mental and emotional imbalance. And finally, growing up in the U.S., Lourdes’ daughter Pilar embodies the conflicts of all the generations, feeling old at twenty-one, wishing to embrace the Cuban roots her parents left behind, and hearing the voice of her Abuela Celia in quiet moments.

In the forms of various character viewpoints and the long-running letters of Celia to a past lover, the novel tells many details that make the results of revolution a living story. In the words of granddaughter Pilar, “Cuba is a peculiar exile, I think an island-colony. We can reach it by a thirty-minute charter flight from Miami, yet never reach it at all.”

An important story here is the effect of the revolutionary outcome on Celia and her impact on the revolution. I wanted more of Celia and her life as she chose to support El Lider Fidel Castro with all her energy. However the stories of the dysfunction of daughters Felicia and Lourdes were less satisfying and seemed to get in the way of Celia’s story. We saw some of the story of this aging woman Celia, but not enough.

I do feel that Garcia’s writing structure and detail become barriers to what is really an exquisite human story. Not for a minute did I not want to read this story and it has been on my to-read list for ages. However, some of the symbolism is overdone. The repeated references to the tidal wave of 1932 is seemingly symbolic of destruction within Celia’s life, but I just think this symbol was used too heavily, along with that of the sea-salt-bleached piano. The continuous sexual descriptions were possibly meant as symbolic of emptiness, struggle, or heartbreak, but became tedious and lessened the strength and maturity of the story.

Many of the elements of the story do motivate me to learn more of Cuba and seek out other authors telling of the personal repercussions of revolution so close to the U.S. both in geography and in American family histories.
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