Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Library Journal

Obejas, Achy.
Akashic. Mar. 2009. c.300p.
ISBN 978-1-933354-69-9. pap. $14.95.

This superb novel by Cuban-born writer and poet Obejas (Memory Mambo) follows the story of Usnavy, who, despite a bleak childhood in a small provincial city near Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, achieves his rightful place in the world as a standard bearer for Castro and Che after the 1959 revolution. However, this all changes in 1994, when the Cuban government permits any and all to leave Cuba by any and all means. Usnavy's best friend leaves without a word, and suddenly the dollar becomes the currency for all goods necessary to his wife and daughter—and to himself. In the midst of this turmoil, Usnavy's only constant is his pride in the oversized stained-glass lamp he inherited from his mother, and for the first time he becomes curious about its origins. He seeks out knowledge from the aptly named Virgilio, a restorer of old glass lamps, and is led through the Dantean mazes of Havana and a secret family history. Although initially confusing, Obejas's writing style effectively mimics the plot, as the author navigates a maze of histories and ethnicities. Recommended for larger public and all academic library collections.

—Mary Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, OR

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