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The Cigar Roller: A Novel Hardcover – February 2, 2005

4.6 out of 5 stars 8 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The final days of a paralyzed stroke victim provide the occasion for a poignant set of immigrant's reflections in Medina's latest. Amadeo Terra spends days and nights in his Catholic nursing home in Tampa silently raging against the neglect of his grown children and the shortcomings (and even brutality) of various staff caretakers. In between episodes of internalized anger, Terra relives his path to becoming a master cigar roller in Cuba, his emigration and work in Tampa's Ibor City cigar factories and his troubled marriage. Medina (The Return of Felix Nogarra) crafts a complex, rewarding novel out of a static setting. Passages in which Terra relives his romantic past, uses his bodily functions in retaliatory fashion or rails against the emptiness of life in Florida each have a particular texture. The darker final chapters work less well, as Medina ineffectively blurs Terra's relationship with his abusive father with ambulatory fantasies and Terra's final decline. But Medina's graceful use of the third person, into which he folds a multiplicity of perspectives with real lyricism, makes Terra seem to open outward into the world--as someone to whom things happen (in paralysis and before), but also as someone who asserts his humanity in whatever circumstances he finds himself. Medina skates perfectly between Terra's specificity and the universality of his plight, making Terra, his flaws and his struggles all the more compelling.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Booklist

Medina's novel is a searing, bitterly humorous analysis of a life. Paralyzed by a stroke, a Cuban-born cigar-factory worker is confined to a Florida hospital. Virtually isolated from the ebb and flow of everyday society, he has as his only companions a cantankerous nurse, an indifferent orderly, and an annoying nun. Reflecting on his past, Amadeo Terra is compelled by both his physical immobility and his spiritual malaise to review his life in ruthlessly honest terms. Introducing his youthful alter ego, Terra recalls his years in Cuba as a master cigar roller, his failures as a thoroughly self--absorbed husband and father, and his desperate flight from Cuba. Adding up the sum parts of his life, he is forced to confront the futility of his present circumstances. Margaret Flanagan
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; First Edition edition (February 2, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802117929
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802117922
  • Product Dimensions: 7.6 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 9.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,704,387 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Pablo Medina is the author of 13 books of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and translation. Until the age of 12, he lived in Havana, Cuba, then moved with his family to New York City, where his culture shock was softened by snow and by countless visits to the New York Public Library. His work has appeared in major periodicals in the United States and abroad. Currently, he lives in Boston, MA, and teaches at Emerson College.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Whereas Pablo Medina's first two novels, "The Marks of Birth" and "The Return of Felix Nogara," were panoramic, semi-satiric murals of Cuban society and the Cuban exile experience, his new book, "The Cigar Roller" is a pungently poetic miniature concentrating on one brutal, careless yet richly human character. Amadeo Terra--lover of earth--is the titular cigar roller, left paralyzed and speechless in a 1940s Tampa hospital after a massive stroke. He blinks, he drools, he defecates, he eats the tasteless mush his nurse spoon-feeds him. Then, one day, the nurse gives Amadeo a spoonful of pureed mango, and--like a debased, low-down Proust--he finds that the paradisal taste causes all the memories of his life to come tumbling back to him. In deliberately disordered but evocative detail, Medina contrasts Terra's miserable present with his rough-and-tumble past, his snatch-and-grab philosophy of life, and--at the end--the horrible secret he must finally face up to. Amadeo is often hateful, but--presented as we are with the totality of his thoughts--we hesitate to call him evil. To know is to understand, and possibly even to forgive. Amadeo's story is interlaced with the dramatic history of Cuba in the late 19th century--the Spanish occupation and native insurgency that led to the Spanish-American War--and should tantalize American readers enough to look deeper into the subject. Short and exquisitely honed, "The Cigar Roller" is a compelling character study that lingers in the memory.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"Not that they were saintly men by any means, but in the world of tobacco a man is judged by his ability at the rolling bench and by his capacity for work. If a man is a cheat that doesn't matter; if he is an adulterer, no matter, or an abuser or a thief or a street thug or an alcoholic. As long as he is a good roller, he is respected, and he is treated properly and with deference."

Amadeo Terra was a master cigar roller in his heyday in Ybor City, Florida - "un torcedor: a vocation of smoke in tune with his life..." But now he is lying entombed in the sarcophagus of a body rendered inert after a massive stroke has struck him down.

It is now the present in the 1940's and Amadeo is in a Tampa nursing home, completely paralyzed and unable to communicate except for the blinking of his eyes. He is isolated and permanently imprisoned in a private hospital room, in a body he can no longer control, in an "unbreachable solitude" wherein all he can accomplish is the examination of his imperfect past, a life spent void of love. Amadeo is dying and clamoring for final dignity at the mercy of nurses, physical therapists and doctors who show him absolutely no mercy.

Once Amadeo was robust and randy with an insatiable lust for food and drink, gambling and sex. He could be a brute and cad, a roué and a carouser. But now Amadeo is a drooling encasement of papery skin over failing viscera, wasting muscle and disintegrating bone. He is not respected. Nor is he treated properly and with deference. His family has forsaken him; his friends are dead. Amadeo the master cigar roller is now Amadeo the viejo putrefacto, the rotten old man, alone at death's door in the nursing home of Santa Gertrudis in Tampa, Florida.
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Format: Hardcover
Pablo Medina is a writer of elegant prose and a man of great sensibility. Like a master cigar roller who tighly rolls together a bundle of dry tobacco leaves, Medina has crafted a novel that is as powerful and pleasing as a good Cuban puro.

It's amazing how this book can make you cry, both from laughter and nostalgia.

Fenomenal, Pablo, como siempre.
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Format: Paperback
The Cigar Roller is the story of a Amadeo Terra, a Cuban-born Cigar Roller that has been paralyzed by a stroke. Amadeo is housed in a nursing home in Florida, isolated from the world. His children pay the bills, but never visit. He is unable to move or talk. And to the outside world, he is no more responsive than a vegetable. One day, as the nurse was feeding Amadeo his lunch of baby food, his memories are sparked by the taste of mango. He is immediately transported back to his childhood in Cuba.

This novel is very well-written, although it does follow the stream of consciousness writing that I'm not particularly fond of reading. Amadeo is a man that has ill-spent almost his entire life and has many deep regrets. He alternates from the present time through many episodes of his past life, some good and some bad. You see snippets of his marriage to Julia, a Cuban woman that immigrated to Florida with him and their three sons. You see bits of life as a Master Cigar Roller. Images of his many mistresses and infidelities are also abound. And the death of his young son that haunts him. But you are also drawn into his life as an invalid, trying desperately to make someone, anyone, realize he CAN understand. You are also drawn into the incredibly inadequate treatment the infirmed receive in this nursing home.

Even though the book was well-written, it probably won't be making my Top lists anytime soon! It was a short book for me, but I found it incredibly difficult to read. It's hard to have a lot of empathy for a man that really, truly was so detestable. And I'm not a fan of stream of consciousness writing. I find it very hard to enjoy. I was hoping for more about Amadeo's life as a Cigar Roller and culture of Cuba, and less of the clinical side of the stroke.
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