From Publishers Weekly
Acevedo's debut, a haunting story set in mid-century Cuba and Florida, spans more than 30 years and illuminates the estranged daughter-presumed-dead-father dynamic between Josefina and her police sergeant father, Antonio. When Josefina, predicted from birth to lead an "unhappy and tormented" life, marries the aimless, yet romantic, Lorenzo, she abandons her well-to-do Havana upbringing and moves to impoverished El Cotorro, prompting her father to sever their relationship. As the book progresses through Cuba's torrid history, Antonio is forced to head to El Cotorro to quell a student riot, where he is presumed dead after disappearing and secretly seeking a life of exile in Miami. Once settled, Antonio, needing to reconcile his unsettled relationship with his daughter, writes her letters that she believes have been sent from beyond the grave. Acevedo captures a magical, dreamlike mood, relating Josefina's memories of her nursemaid's stories of saints and rituals, which sets the stage for Lorenzo's transformation into a selfish womanizer and Josefina's predictable love affair with the "guardian angel" her father had sent to watch over her. This multi-layered epic paints an intriguing picture of pre- and post-Castro Cuba and is a promising debut for Acevedo.
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This first novel is a sumptuous, slow, and romantic portrait of a woman in pre-Castro Cuba--Josefina, daughter of a wealthy police sergeant, who runs away to marry a man with few prospects. Her life, once so magical and privileged, is now one of poverty and loneliness as she raises her two children alone while her roaming husband sleeps with one woman after another, largely neglecting his family. Josefina pines for both the luxury she has lost and the romance her husband offers whenever he does come home. Her father is said to have been killed in an uprising, so when she begins receiving letters from him, she believes he is communicating with her from the beyond. Acevedo's juxtaposition of the sergeant's life in Miami, where he has escaped, and Josefina's continually scratched-out existence is especially poignant when her father begins to send her money via the town butcher, who does not tell her he is the source of the "ghost letters." With colorful and well-developed characters, this novel is unrushed and well detailed. Debi LewisCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved