From Publishers Weekly
In 11 too-brief, charming tales, Cuban author Alonso gently pokes fun at the irksome living conditions in her home country. In "Caesar," a family starved for the taste of meat-unavailable and prohibitively expensive to the regular workers-decide to raise a pig for slaughter, but become very attached to the clean, well-behaved Caesar. More gruesome is the plight of Berta in "The Test," who prolongs the ulcer that ensures she'll continue to receive the dietary supplement to her food rations. "Mutiny on Board" presents a satisfying revolt by a busload of workers mortally tired of being cheated by the bus drivers and fare collectors on Cojímar's route 58. A gap "like a giant stomach, constantly devouring" garners national attention but little repair in "The Story of a Pothole," while a the couple seeking a new home in "Never Finished" try to navigate the bewildering system of Cuban house trading, permutar. Throughout, Alonso finds a redemptive humor amid privation and heartache.
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The resilience of the Cuban people during the economically depressed mid-1990s, the so-called Special Period, is showcased in eleven short stories from Alonso (Casting the First Stone, 1997). Brief vignettes are linked by characters' ingenuity in solving everyday urban troubles, be it lack of water, hazardous potholes, shoddy public transportation, or deficient materials for repairing deteriorating buildings. In the sly "Mutiny on Board," a group of determined citizens spontaneously take over a bus after the driver allows employees to board first. In "Never Finished," a couple considers a move from their old, leaky house, forcing them to contend with the Cuban approach to real estate, which entails a complicated legal process. The result is an amusing, yet stirring, resolution to their increasingly convoluted options. Alonso's sparse prose and absurdist narrative move at a sprightly pace, allowing the keen wit behind the tales to sink in and provoke a thoughtful chortle and create a memorable impression of human resolve. Strauss, Leah