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When Tito Loved Clara Hardcover – March 8, 2011


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Algonquin Books (March 8, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1565129490
  • ISBN-13: 978-1565129498
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.9 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,000,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Michaud, the head librarian at the New Yorker, writes well at the sentence level, but unconvincing characters and soap-operatic plot twists mar his debut about a resilient Dominican-American woman. Clara Lugo lives with her husband, Thomas, and their son, Guillermo, in the New Jersey suburbs and desperately wants another child, but can't conceive. Thomas, meanwhile, laid off from his job six months earlier, has lost his confidence. Clara's 16-year-old niece, Deysie, who has recently moved in with the Lugos, turns out to be pregnant by Clara's sister's ex-con boyfriend. Then Clara's old high school boyfriend, Tito Moreno, reappears. When Clara and Tito, who has failed to move on after their brief tryst 15 years earlier, try to resolve some unfinished personal business, hurtful revelations promise to change the course of both their lives. Despite Clara's complicated family drama, Tito's unhealthy obsession with Clara, and a subplot with the seedy ex-con, the story fails to garner any emotional weight. Author tour. (Mar.)
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From Booklist

New Yorker librarian Michaud�s first novel displays significant but uneven talent. Its emotional insight and character development are first rate, but its lack of structure and pacing diminish their power. Clara Lugo, a Dominican immigrant who grew up in a troubled home in the upper reaches of Manhattan, has escaped that world for comfort and suburbia. Her already crumbling idyll, though, is further shaken when her pregnant teenage niece is put in her care, a development that adds more strain to Clara�s fraught marriage and more piquancy to her fertility problems. When Tito, a high-school boyfriend with a lasting obsession, disruptively re-enters her life, things seem at a breaking point. Michaud�s quiet account of a foundering marriage and his forays into the mind of an abused child and her adult self are perfectly done. He also sets up some intriguing conflicts and even an accessory murder mystery plotline. Unfortunately, the interest generated by his successes is squandered as the plot circles slowly, the manifold flashbacks stagnating the whole as Michaud�s acuity overwhelms itself. --Meg Kinney

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Customer Reviews

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This book makes a great book club read.
Lunar
A first novel with a great deal of charm, "When Tito Loved Clara" is a page turner that will keep you reading long past bedtime.
WendySiera
He does a splendid job of evoking character.
bluewombat

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Lynne Perednia VINE VOICE on March 21, 2011
Format: Hardcover
Some novels are built to read at break-neck speed, to rush through page after page, to be gobbled up without pausing to chew well. When Tito Loved Clara, the first novel by The New Yorker librarian Jon Michaud, is not one of them. No, this is a novel to savor, to want to live in for days and days, to learn all about these characters that they will reveal.

Tito is a boy-man who never got over his high school love, Clara. He has lived a life of quiet desperation, helping his building super father and being reliable at the moving company. He is firmly entrenched in his Dominican neighborhood in NYC. He tries to date other women but none move him like that girl. He does reach out to a new tenant with a young son; with her husband out of the country, Tito becomes a babysitter and wishes for more.

While out with the child one day, Tito is seen by Clara. She doesn't approach him but remembers what they meant to each other as the serious girl who loved books found romance with the boy who once caused a swingset accident. Clara has moved out of the neighborhood, married a white man and now lives in New Jersey as a middle class professional. She and Thomas have a son but hope for more. Clara has come so far from her grandparents' farm in D.R., where her idyllic life was shattered when her absent father appeared one day to kidnap her and bring her to America. He promised her mother to Clara, but dumped her with his second wife, as abusive as any Dickensian monster, while he tried to keep a hardware store profitable in the neigborhood.

But Clara hasn't really left her family behind. Her many-crazy, volatile half-sister is leaving NYC in a huff to spend some time back in the D.R. with their real mother, who returned there herself after years in America.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By WendySiera on March 22, 2011
Format: Hardcover
This portrayal of life in Inwood (the old neighborhood at Manhattan's northernmost tip) is eerily perceptive. Michaud has captured the feel and tone of an immigrant Hispanic community from the point of view of the married-into-the-culture white spouse. It's vibrant and it's pitch-perfect. He's caught the voices, the moods, the sights, sounds and smells and yes, the soap-operatic nonstop drama. The book is also a small study of a type of maleness that is gentle and open-hearted and strong. That's a rarity in our literary output these days. A first novel with a great deal of charm, "When Tito Loved Clara" is a page turner that will keep you reading long past bedtime. We definitely look forward to more from this author. He's finding his stride--particular and unique. One gets the sense that the next book will be even better.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By M. Crawford on August 5, 2011
Format: Hardcover
I am not sure what made me like this book more the great writing or how similar my story is to the character, Clara...I think it's the latter. This story focused mainly on Clara, a immigrant from the Dominican Republic, who worked very diligently and overcame great odds to create the life she wanted for herself. While Clara was moving on, Tito, her mama's boy high school boyfriend, was marking time, missing Clara and dreaming of what could have been.

The book reminds me of how alike many immigrant families are in their need for family, preserving customs, and doing the best they know to do.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Z. M. Berger on July 19, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I hesitate to say too much about my admiration for Jon Michaud's debut novel, When Tito Loved Clara, because Jon and I are friends and former co-workers, and anything I write will either be biased because of that relationship, or perceived as such. But I will say this much:

I can't easily forget Tito's overwhelming sense of yearning and loss; or Clara's sharply-developed ambitions that form the crux of her coping mechanisms after some harsh realities; or Deysei's incipient maturity, tinted deeply still by her youthful sweetness and eagerness to be loved; or Yunis' bawdy, narcissistic attempts to outrun her personal limitations; nor Thomas' grasping urge to overcome his insecurities and find common ground with a temptation that may be too far out of reach.

These are partial descriptions of only some of the novel's characters, but these characters fully inhabit their own world -- a world that is rich with cultural tension, fraught with familial idiosyncrasies, yet that is nonetheless imbued with a lively, welcoming, and recognizable sense of place and time.

It's been well over a week since I finished the book, and I have written this little review based solely on my memories of the novel. That's how indelibly the author has managed to substitute ink and imagination for flesh and blood.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Carlos E. Calderon on April 3, 2011
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Absolutely lovely story about two Dominican-American youngsters who fall in love right out of High School, but Clara suddenly disappears without saying a word. Tito was never able to forget his one true love and when he finds her some seventeen years later, he's determined to find out why she left him and to try to win her back. Michaud's story builds little by little, digging deep into the characters and their motivations. It shows us interesting details about the Dominican culture and about the cultural shock that follows when people move to another country. The only complaint I have is that the super-interesting story of Clara and Tito sometimes gets lost in the flashbacks of Clara's childhood. Michaud has proven he's a fine writer. Hopefully we'll read more from him in the future.
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