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King of Cuba: A Novel Hardcover – May 21, 2013

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Scribner; FIRST SCRIBNER HARD COVER EDITION edition (May 21, 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1476710244
  • ISBN-13: 978-1476710242
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (35 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,006 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

*Starred Review* García’s (The Lady Matador’s Hotel, 2010) tremendous empathy for her characters is the magnetic force of her fiction, and her lifeblood theme is the scarring legacy of oppression and brutality, particularly the horrors and absurdities of the Castro regime. In her most honed and lashing novel to date, she goes directly to the source, writing from the perspective of a fictionalized, aging, but not mellowing despot of Cuba. Proud of surviving numerous assassination attempts and defying doctor’s orders to smoke his sacramental cigars, El Comandante terrorizes everyone from his charmless brother, now in charge of the country’s day-to-day operations, to a doomed group of hunger strikers. During one sweltering summer, the dictator anticipates a celebratory reenactment of the Bay of Pigs, and Goyo Herrera, a wealthy expat in Miami battling the ravages of old age, stokes his rage at El Comandante and embarks on a crazy, cataclysmic mission. Both macho octogenarians fret over their bafflingly feckless offspring, preen over their sexual prowess, reflect on their youth, and slip into dreams and hallucinations. Spectacularly agile, strategically surreal, wryly tender, and devilishly funny, García has created an ingeniously plotted, boisterous, and brilliantly castigating tale that is punctuated by a Cuban chorus mocking the country’s cruel regime and relentless hardships and buoyed by a stubborn belief in transcendence. --Donna Seaman


"A clever, well-conceived dual portrait that shows what connects and divides Cubans inside and outside of the island." (Kirkus Reviews)

García’s tremendous empathy for her characters is the magnetic force of her fiction, and her lifeblood theme is the scarring legacy of oppression and brutality, particularly the horrors and absurdities of the Castro regime. In her most honed and lashing novel to date, she goes directly to the source...An ingeniously plotted, boisterous, and brilliantly castigating tale" (Booklist)

"Garcia's writing is laced with candor and wit as she portrays the lives of two men united by the past." (Publishers Weekly)

"Darkly hilarious, García braids...parallel stories with consummate ease. With a fine balance of wry absurdity and existential poignancy, García builds not just a tale of the end of days but a snapshot of the past impact and future reverberations of Cuba’s revolution—a theme more fascinating than ever as the once-isolated island nation opens itself to the world." (Elle Magazine)

"Mordantly funny and insightful...King of Cuba has its roots in long-simmering political strife, but it is finally a novel about the human condition, about aging and loss and undying love for a country that once was paradise, at least in memory." (Tampa Bay Times)

“[A] wry new novel, King of Cuba… tell[s] the story of two macho, aging men in alternating voices. These two narratives, interspersed with a chorus of other Cuban voices, combine to define an exhausted country and the bonds between its people.” (Bookpage)

“Garcia's serio-comic novel gives us all the pop delight of a musical based on major historical events and a devastating portrait of two men and a tyrannical government on the way out. Anyone with an interest in late 20th century politics will find this book a wicked pleasure.” (Alan Cheuse, National Public Radio)

"Fabulously absurdist. Much has been written about Havana vs. Miami... but Garcia’s satirical version of events...feels fresh because Garcia sets the novel in modern times. Passions may have cooled, but the anger remains, ossified but still there. King of Cuba is about wish fulfillment, that long-imagined moment for many exiles when they have a chance to confront the man they blame for ruining their country and so many lives. Garcia delivers the conclusion in style but with a caveat: Revenge isn’t always what you think it might be." (Amy Driscoll Miami Herald)

“García takes one of the most fascinating political figures of the 20th century and…imagines him as a man—and, through him, imagines his country. [She] invests her characters and their memories with rich detail. In the end, her subject matter…is Cuba.” (New York Times Book Review)

More About the Author

Cristina García's latest novel is the darkly comic KING OF CUBA, a fictional account of Fidel Castro, an octogenarian Miami exile, and a rabble of other voices.

Her other novels include Dreaming in Cuban, The Agüero Sisters, Monkey Hunting, A Handbook to Luck, and The Lady Matador's Hotel. She has also written books for young readers, poetry, and edited anthologies.

Her work has been nominated for a National Book Award and translated into fourteen languages. She is the recipient of numerous awards and has taught literature and writing at universities nationwide.

Customer Reviews

Cristina garcia goes all out!
Mary L. Hutchins
I would be surprised to hear of many readers who didn't find this book fairly amusing; I'd say such a view would probably fall out of the mainstream.
I really have enjoyed reading this great piece of satire.
C. E. Selby

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By TChris TOP 100 REVIEWER on May 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
Most of the scenes in King of Cuba alternate between Havana and Miami, between the homes of two old men, Fidel Castro and Goyo Herrera. For reasons both personal and political, the eighty-six-year-old Herrera loathes Castro. Herrera's daughter Alina claims he is staying alive only so he can celebrate Castro's death. Herrera detests Alina's liberalism, particularly her opposition to the Cuban trade embargo. Herrera's sixty-year-old son, Goyito, is a hooligan and a drug addict. Herrera spends most of the novel recalling his unhappy past, including the woman whose life connects his with Castro's, as he indulges his revenge fantasies.

If Herrera is old and decrepit, Castro is equally so. No longer Cuba's head of state and unable to make a speech without fainting, Castro is also reduced to thoughts of his past, his legacy and fame, his sexual conquests, and the size of his pinga when he was in his prime. Herrera and Castro have more in common than they realize: they have spent their lives appreciating the company of women (including but not limited to their wives); they are disappointed in their sons and controlled by their daughters; they disregard the advice of their doctors and feel betrayed by their aging bodies. Both men are obsessed, Herrera with Castro and Castro with himself. Both are "besotted with the past."

Interspersed with the twin narratives devoted to Castro and Herrera are a series of jokes, stories, and commentaries (sometimes in the form of footnotes) from the perspectives of various Cubans and occasional tourists. Many of them create memorable snapshots of lives spent in a difficult, complex country. The late-blooming plot sends both characters to New York, where their fates finally converge.

King of Cuba captures a transitional moment in history.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Guinan02 on May 22, 2013
Format: Hardcover
I recently finished this novel and was totally taken by the characters, two old men coming to the end of their lives and agonizing over what they leave behind. The truly interesting aspect of this narrative is that the men are diametrically opposed in so many ways and yet have so many similarities. The tyrannical Comandante and the Miami-based Goyo are mirror images of each other who begin and end the narrative with much bravado, eventually coming to terms with the fact that, after all the hue and cry, the most vital parts of their lives are long over. Their accomplishments fall short of their intentions and the footprint they leave behind, is far from certain. In the end, they are just two old men, looking back on a life that's gone forever. As befits their stage in life, they examine the triumphs and disappointments of their lives. Some of the passages are heartrendingly beautiful (fireflies), others absurdly funny (an octogenarian joining guerrilleros in the Everglades), and others agonizingly sadistic(El comandante's macabre dinner for fasting dissidents). The role of memory is vital in the book. Regardless of where the characters find themselves physically, their minds inhabit a long ago Cuba which is the subtext of their lives. Sudden flashbacks without transitions parallel the reality of characters who inhabit both worlds simultaneously, the Comandante focusing on past military triumphs and Goyo yearning for a lavish lifestyle he left behind. Memory is a plague that contaminates the present because the characters learn nothing from the past. So intent are they on days gone by that the present disintegrates before their eyes as they watch helplessly. Parallel scenes which quickly follow each other also reinforce the similarities in the two characters--fire, rain,meals, hospital stays, all tie the two together. Ms. Garcia masterfully weaves a tale that spares no one. Well done.
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4 of 5 people found the following review helpful By David Winkler on July 2, 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
So fertile is the imaginative landscape of Cristina Garcia's new novel that it can be approached from various angles, the political and social perhaps the most salient. Cuba's recent history is, after all, the shining if somewhat tarnished star of the narrative. I recall in my junior high school choir having to sing a song that went "Fair Cuba sits enthroned in a radiance of light," which somehow belied its troubled inner life. The reader finds provocative such sentences as "How Cubans love their martyrs, roasting the fires of memory like suckling pigs"; "...the lies that had calcified into history"; "His daughter had once theorized that if three or more flags were flying on any given suburban street, Republicans were predominant." These and many others urge the reader to ponder, discuss, and argue the author's balanced and non-judgmental political themes. But here I prefer to focus on the book's other shining and emphatically un-tarnished star, Ms. Garcia's prose style, which indeed "sits enthroned in a radiance of light."
For a novel that for 235 pages centers around two aging and ailing adversaries without sparing us details of their decrepitude and myriad illnesses, the story is ironically bright, buoyant, and effervescent. You begin after a while to spot metaphors everywhere, for the two men and the country they both love: "The swamps gurgled and wheezed, attending to its grim business of decay." This is one of those rare books, as with Nabokov, that you read in anticipation of what surprises the ensuing sentences have to offer. And how those sentences sing and sizzle! They evoke out-loud laughter on just about every page. A sampling: "Luisa had been cut, snipped, tucked, nipped, and sucked so often that her body looked stitched together from disparate parts.
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