From Publishers Weekly
Santiago, who won a Pulitzer Prize for her coverage of Elian Gonz�lez in the Miami Herald, makes her fiction debut with this flat immigrants' saga. Marisol, an historian for the Miami Museum of History, recounts in jumbled retrospect the tale of her sometimes idealized, sometimes difficult childhood in Cuba. After her father's early death and her mother's subsequent unbalance, Marisol is raised by her loving abuela ("grandma"), and the two emigrate to the Cuban Miami of the Vietnam era. Santiago focuses on Marisol's love life, from her first crush as a little girl to a succession of Miami �migr�s, including a political refugee who despises the bourgeois life to which Marisol aspires, and a cardiologist who shares Marisol's nostalgic yearnings for the Cuba of old, but will not leave his wife for her. Different perfumes delineate various phases of Marisol's life (with Wind Song, White Linen and others serving as section headings). Santiago brings together the expected elements of an immigrant's tale of self-discovery and redemption, but there's little drive behind Marisol's diaristic narration. Along with the perfume conceit, the Parisian connection, made explicit by the end, feels contrived. (Dec.)
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Santiago follows poet and historical archivist Marisol as she struggles to find love and learn more about her Cuban heritage in Miami’s expatriate Cuban community. The novel is divided into segments according to the perfume Marisol wears at each point in her life. For her, each scent represents a certain relationship or time period. As the story begins, Marisol is wearing a perfume called Pleasures, and she is having an affair with a married man who refuses to leave his wife. Later she meets Gabriel, who becomes one of her great loves, and for him she wears Habanita, a scent they discover together in Europe. Santiago elevates this seemingly merely glamorous and romantic tale above the usual chick-lit fare by smoothly integrating immigration issues and a dash of mystery into the plot. And as the novel draws to a close, Marisol’s troubles with men finally lead her to investigate her past, with the help of friends, and what she learns is both shocking and illuminating. --Katherine Boyle