The Reading Countess's Reviews > The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba's Struggle for Freedom

The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle
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's review
Dec 28, 2009

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Read on January 17, 2010

Publisher's Summary: It is 1896. Cuba has fought three wars for independence and still is not tree. People have been rounded up in reconcentration camps with too little food and too much illness. Rosa is a nurse, but she dares not go to the camps. So she turns hidden caves into hospitals for those who know how to find her.

Black, white, Cuban, Spanish—Rosa does her best for everyone. Yet who can heal a country so torn apart by war? Acclaimed poet Margarita Engle has created another breathtaking portrait of Cuba.
I love books written in verse. Home of the Brave, Out of the Dust, and All the Broken Pieces are among my favorites in this genre. However, I found this particular book to be difficult to get through. Perhaps it was that I didn't completely understand the historical context of the times (Cuban years of struggle for independence). I read the back of the book where the history of Cuba's struggles are thoughtfully laid out. I still found it difficult to understand.
There were many verses, though, that took my breath away: "The oxcart comes every afternoon, People call it the death-cart. But I think of it as a chariot driven by my friend, and angel, a Brother of Charity and Faith. The angel-man brings me tiny bits of smuggled food, but there is never enough, and my brothers are turning into shadows. I feed them imaginary meals of air." (p. 99) and this one, which reminded me of Haiti: "...When I asked Rosa why a newspaper would care so much about our island, I found her answer troubling. She said tales of suffering sell newspapers that make readers feel safe, because they are so far away from the horror..." (p.131)

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