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The Handsomest Man in Cuba: An Escapade Paperback – Bargain Price, April 1, 2007

63 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Trading her car and house for a folding bike and a series of rented rooms and campsites, Australian suburbanite Chiang embarked on a three-month solo trip across Cuba, from December 1999 to March 2000 (her memoir was published in Australia and New Zealand in 2003). She roamed without a master plan, bunking with Cuban families, spending time in the places where ordinary people lived, making friends, and seeing what life off the beaten tourist paths is like. While the book suffers from a certain repetitiveness--Chiang moves from one dirt-poor community to another, dossing down with one charming family after another--it offers us a revealing look at a Cuba we rarely see, a country whose citizens are still crippled by the government's anti-American political stance, living in poverty, finding small joys in the kind of life most of us can't even begin to imagine. And while Chiang's tone is generally light and breezy, it's the serious messages about politics and poverty behind the entertaining characters and comic misadventures that give the book its staying power. David Pitt
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved


“Hop onto Ms. Chiang’s handlebars and enjoy a magical adventure in Castro’s Cuba, a journey that can only take place on two wheels and with an open heart. With the warm tropical breeze to our backs, we pedal into the lives of a medley of fascinating, sometimes handsome, always amusing characters—and none more so than Lynette herself.”
—Randy Komisar, author of The Monk and the Riddle
“The only time you’ll put it down is when you finish it.”
—Peter Sutherland, Australian Cyclist magazine
"Set in a post-utopian Cuba, Lynette Chiang's astute narrative highlights the Cuban people's capacity, despite untenable circumstances and daily hardships, to preserve their irrepressible sense of humor, joie de vivre, and immense generosity of spirit--quintessential aspects of the Cuban character that transcend time and space, politics and history."
—Andrea O'Reilly Herrera, author of Cuba: "Idea of a Nation" Displaced and The Pearl of the Antilles

"Australian vagabond Chiang’s travel memoir on Cuba works on several levels. For American adventure travelers, there is the excitement of traveling to a place your country basically forbids you to go. For solo female travelers, there are the pleasures and horrors (beware of flashers in the city of Cienfuegos) of exploring a place on your own terms. For cyclists, there is perhaps the challenge of bicycling Cuba’s long and varied terrain. Although Chiang sees fantastic sites, it is really the people she meets who provide her with her fondest memories. Average Cubans share their daily rations with her, welcome her into their homes or yards (for camping) for days, and basically show her a good time. But it is not all idyllic. Besides being assaulted in Cienfuegos, Chiang falls victim to petty thefts, harassing touts, price gouging, and the general oddness of Cuba’s version of tourism separation. Through it all, she keeps her good sense of humor and a positive outlook. Wonderfully literate, entertaining, and insightful; recommended for public libraries." [Originally published in Australia.—Ed.]                                               —Lee Arnold, Historical Society of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia

“This is a book not just for bikies, not just for tourists, and not just for those with one of the usual axes to grind about Cuban and its regime. This is travel literature at its best.”
—Rob van der Plas, publisher of Cycling Publishing

“A wonderful reflection on the joys of cycling and seeing the world on a bicycle.”
—Mark Mobius, author of Passports to Profits

“This is one of the best ‘on the road’ travel books of this generation.”
—Martin Stevenson, The Launceston Examiner, Australia

“In the glut of Cuban travel books, this one really stands out.”
—Caroline Baum, The Sun Herald, Australia

“A song of praise for the humanity and simple decency of Cubans.”
The Sydney Morning Herald


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Globe Pequot; 1st edition (April 1, 2007)
  • ISBN-10: 0762743905
  • ASIN: B001QCX4OU
  • Product Dimensions: 7.9 x 5.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (63 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #4,203,269 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Celia H. Leber on August 5, 2005
Format: Paperback
I really enjoyed The Handsomest Man In Cuba because it is something that seems like a rarity these days -- a book about a politicized subject that is not a one-sided rant. Lynette portrays Cuba as complex, often perplexing, sometimes disturbing -- the way the world really is. Travelling by bicycle, and being an outgoing Aussie, she was able to get close to the people of Cuba and get at least a glimpse of their everyday life and daily struggles and joys. Her description of life at this level - at street level - gives a valuable insight into the successes and failings of the Castro regime, one that US politicians might do well to consider.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By R. Arkin on August 11, 2005
Format: Paperback
The Handsomest Man In Cuba by Linette Chiang is a wonderful book not to be missed, whether you are a hard core bicyclist, casual traveler, or just interested in the world around you.

Lynette provides an intimate and insightful look into the lives of ordinary Cubans as she chronicles her adventures bicycling across the country, making new friends as she goes. Preferring to live simply among the people and avoid the typical insulated "tourist" experience, she manages to show all sides of Cuba. She misses nothing, describing the tiniest details of the people and places she encounters, and her own adventures along the way. Her perceptive outlook, frank honesty, humor and compassion gives a provocative perspective of this remarkable country, it's people and their culture, and in the process provides some profound reflections on the comparison to our own "Western culture". She reminds us how easy it is for us to forget (or never realize) to appreciate what we have in our lives...that perhaps the cost of what we've gained may not always be worth what we've lost.

After reading her book I experienced a tremendous restless urge to just take off on a bike somewhere across the world for a year or so. That may have to wait a bit (being a parent of young children). But it's certainly the next best thing to be able to experience vicariously Lynette's courageous and free adventure by reading this book. It's a remarkable tale written by a remarkable woman, and I have a new appreciation and understanding of Cuba and its people as a result. Highly recommended!

--Ray Arkin

Eugene, Oregon
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Casual Reader on June 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
This book brought a torrent of bittersweet memories. Like Lynette I'm of Chinese descent, but born in Cuba. It's very rarely that one bumps into a very original travel account like hers. Least of all, not that many have had the opportunity to see the side of Cuba never shown to ordinary tourists. What I really appreciate is her non-biased approach as she shows the daily hardships ordinary people encounter to survive, without rambling on what's already known about living conditions there under Castro. She brings to life the resilience of the people there rather candidly. This is important - the character of the people, not the ugly politics. Lynette, when is your next bike trip back to Cuba? Please let me know I have several suggestions.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By Jennifer Eng on June 10, 2005
Format: Paperback
I just finished reading the book, The Handsomest Man in Cuba, and wanted to let everyone know how much I loved it.

I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and was in Cuba about 6 weeks ago. I loved it. I will admit, I was one of those tourists who stayed at a resort in Varadero. I speak some Spanish and used it often - my friends didn't, so I had to translate quite a bit for them. We made it off the resort a number of times and made friends with a variety of the locals.

There were so many times where the person I was speaking with didn't speak any English at all, and my Spanish wasn't nearly perfect...but there was a point where we were both reaching...and it just worked. Perhaps it is the universal language we all posess?

I was left wanting more. More than the tourist experience. So I went on looking for books on Cuba and found this one. It was exactly what I needed. Lynette's insights on the state of the country are very interesting. I found myself wondering if Cubans are better off than they think they are, and how it would be if they did have the same freedoms as ourselves in North America?

It was a pleasure to read such a refreshingly honest and sentimental story of her trip. I'd love to read a "part 2"!!
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By John S. Allen on May 14, 2005
Format: Paperback
That man on the front cover isn't exactly handsome.

Maybe bookstores should display the book with the back cover facing out! It holds a lively promotional blurb explaining what the book is about: author Lynette Chiang's adventurous free-form, low-budget 3-month tour of Cuba, mostly by bicycle.

The author does have a taste for irony...

I read the blurb, opened the book and found very enthusiastic quotes from reviewers. Those five stars overhead say that I am just as enthusiastic.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. For now, onward, into the body of the work.

Prank time again! In the first few pages, Chiang gives precise description, acute insights into personalities, delightful twists of language, and light, self-deprecating humor, but she lets on that she has not read a newspaper in months. She hangs out in Havana with other foreigners -- drifters and wanderers -- leading to speculation that she might be just like them. She tosses off a few mysterious little asides about her past.

Well, Chiang _will_ allow you to get to know her if you are patient, and I assure you, it's very much worth the effort.

Warning: analysis follows. If you want to let Chiang's story unfold for yourself in your own way -- just order the book. You won't regret it.


Chiang's book is no ordinary travelogue, it's much more. A free-form, solo bicycle tour is a time of constant improvisation, unexpected turns of events, invitations to family dinners where the tourist feels like an insider and outsider at once.
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