Thursday, October 3, 2013

Havana Lost by Libby Fischer Hellmann

Published by The Red Herrings Press
Reviewed in e-book format
Told in three parts: Part 1 1958 Cuba, Part 2 1989-1992 Angola and Part 3 Present Day Chicago. Three generations of a wealthy Sicilian/Cuban family through the strife and poverty of Cuba during the rule of Batiste, the revolution by Che and Fidel, followed by rule under Fidel Castro.

The daughter of a Mafia boss, Francesca/Frankie is determined to live her life on her own terms. She is about to be sent to America 'for her safety.' What choice does she have but to flee her home? To the background of rebel fighting, Santería and Cuban fire in her blood, she has found the love of her life. On her father's orders, she is torn from the arms of her lover, probably the only man who can or will keep her safe, and she is devastated as she is shipped off to America. From this point the story veers to life after Fidel. An aside to this is sending Cuban troops to Angola, and we are thrown into the life of Luis, Frankie's lover. As one of the Cubans sent to Angola, a new thread is added by way of mining a newly coveted mineral. A map is the key to all that follows.

This book is not only an insight into the Mafia families and their connections to both Soviet and American 'providers' while Cubans starve. It is also a clear and defining history of the country over the past 50-plus years. A well-written, no-holds-barred history which is still happening. What is interesting to me is that often the very thing the Cubans have learned by assimilation to dislike and distrust about 'America,' is at the same time found in Cuba.

This excellent book cuts no corners, but at the same time has a fascinating tale to tell. The reader can not help but become a part of this family, and get a feeling of Cuba itself. Rooting for some, fearing for some, in awe of the acceptance of their plight and their resilience of spirit. Tension builds throughout the book. Superstitious as many Cubans may be, what reason should we have to be non-accepting of their grasp at whatever they feel they can trust? Little enough.

This Canadian reader immersed herself in the book with deep feelings of anger and sorrow, yet with happiness in the love that some found. Libby Hellman has caught my attention and taken me away to a different world...actually more like three different worlds, and I thank her for that. She made me feel the book, a myriad of feelings and touched my soul. I felt the music, saw the poverty, as well as the beauty. Highly recommend.

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