From Publishers Weekly
Although it too often confronts harsh political reality with sentimentality, Engle's second novel (after Singing to Cuba) is a lush improvisation on Cuban politics and their effect on one family. Narrated by Carmen Peregrin, who was raised in the U.S. by an American mother, the novel follows the attempt of her half brother, Camilo, to flee Cuba by raft?a journey that lands him in the Viper, Castro's infamous prison. Carmen's efforts to free Camilo eventually involve an extended family, including the far reaches of the Peregrin clan in Spain, where bribe money is found in a family fortune preserved from the times of the conquistadores. The novel is resolutely?and sometimes stridently?anti-Castro. In fact, "the Commander," as he is called here, is one of the most compelling characters in the book, a demon astride a paradisiacal Cuba, luring people to his speeches with fresh oranges, furtively referred to by the hungry populace as "The Count of Meat" or, simply, "that guy." Engle indulges herself at times: Carmen's passion about her newfound Cuban identity is often pretentiously self-serious (she adopts Spanish punctuation and syntax); a trip through the family patriarch's life is overblown; and Engle's taste for lyrical language provides more rhetoric than insight, more heat than light. Nevertheless, by novel's end, she has powerfully portrayed the pain and patience demanded of citizens in the grip of tyranny. Quality Paperback alternate.
Copyright 1995 Reed Business Information, Inc.
"A remarkable work -- and significant contributions that seeks to understand the ravages wrought by oppressors past and present."
-- Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
I had an invisible half brother hidden by a mythical sea. Throughout our childhoods, Camilo and I called out to each other. Carmen Peregrin, conceived in the jungles of Cuba and raised in the California desert, is the child of two rebels betrayed by their revolution. All her life Carmen has dreamed of the Cuban half brother she has never met. At last, during the hurricane season, she arrives in Old Havana to meet him, finding Camilo is not as she has imagined him all these years. By morning he is gone, setting out for freedom across ninety miles of sea on a raft made of inner tubes bound together by twine and hope.
Carmen waits with Camilo's mother for news of his face, but his name does not appear on the list of balseros who have survived the crossing. Reluctantly returning home to North America, Carmen learns that Camilo has disappeared deep within the belly of the Viper, Cuba's most infamous prison. His face lends a dark urgency to the package he has asked her to smuggle into the United States, to be opened once she is safely out of Cuba -- a packet that guards the unquiet ghosts of her ancestors...and of Cuba itself.
In prose that is exquisite and electric, dreamlike and defiant, Margarita Engle evokes the mystery and paradox of Cuba. A celebration of hope and the human spirit that is both topical and timeless, Skywriting is a major novel by a soaring new talent.
"A lush improvisation on Cuban politics and their effect on one family...[Engle] has powerfully portrayed the pain and patience demanded of citizens in the grip of tyranny" -- Publishers Weekly
"At once an expose of evil and despair and a joyful affirmation of freedom and life...A delight to read -- on all of its levels."
-- The San Diego Union TribuneFrom the Trade Paperback edition.