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Told with wry wit and keen insight, this entertaining and richly satisfying story about a fictionalized Fidel Castro and an octogenarian Cuban exile obsessed with seeking revenge against the dictator—from the National Book Award finalist and author of Dreaming in Cuban. Vivid and alive, Cristina García’s new novel transports readers to Cuba, to Miami, and into the heads of Told with wry wit and keen insight, this entertaining and richly satisfying story about a fictionalized Fidel Castro and an octogenarian Cuban exile obsessed with seeking revenge against the dictator—from the National Book Award finalist and author of Dreaming in Cuban. Vivid and alive, Cristina García’s new novel transports readers to Cuba, to Miami, and into the heads of two larger-than-life men—a fictionalized Fidel Castro and an octogenarian Cuban exile obsessed with seeking revenge against the dictator. In King of Cuba, the National Book Award finalist and author of Dreaming in Cuban, writing at the top of her form with humor and humanity, returns to the territory of her homeland. El Comandante, an aging dictator, shambles about his mansion in Havana, visits a dying friend, tortures hunger strikers in one of his prisons, and grapples with the stale end of his life that is as devoid of grandeur as his nearly sixty-year-old revolution. Across the waters in Florida, Goyo Herrera, a Miami exile in his eighties, plots revenge against his longtime enemy—the very same El Comandante—whom he blames for stealing his beloved, ruining his homeland, and taking his father’s life. Herrera would gladly “wear chains on his ankles, chisel stones for his remaining days, even become a goddamn Democrat for the gratification of personally expediting the tyrant’s journey back to the Devil, with whom he’d obviously made a pact.” With her masterful twinning of El Comandante and Herrera, along with the rabble of other Cuban voices that combine to create a chorus of history’s unofficial stories, García plumbs the passions and realities of these two Cubas—on the island and off—and offers a pulsating story that entertains and illuminates.


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Told with wry wit and keen insight, this entertaining and richly satisfying story about a fictionalized Fidel Castro and an octogenarian Cuban exile obsessed with seeking revenge against the dictator—from the National Book Award finalist and author of Dreaming in Cuban. Vivid and alive, Cristina García’s new novel transports readers to Cuba, to Miami, and into the heads of Told with wry wit and keen insight, this entertaining and richly satisfying story about a fictionalized Fidel Castro and an octogenarian Cuban exile obsessed with seeking revenge against the dictator—from the National Book Award finalist and author of Dreaming in Cuban. Vivid and alive, Cristina García’s new novel transports readers to Cuba, to Miami, and into the heads of two larger-than-life men—a fictionalized Fidel Castro and an octogenarian Cuban exile obsessed with seeking revenge against the dictator. In King of Cuba, the National Book Award finalist and author of Dreaming in Cuban, writing at the top of her form with humor and humanity, returns to the territory of her homeland. El Comandante, an aging dictator, shambles about his mansion in Havana, visits a dying friend, tortures hunger strikers in one of his prisons, and grapples with the stale end of his life that is as devoid of grandeur as his nearly sixty-year-old revolution. Across the waters in Florida, Goyo Herrera, a Miami exile in his eighties, plots revenge against his longtime enemy—the very same El Comandante—whom he blames for stealing his beloved, ruining his homeland, and taking his father’s life. Herrera would gladly “wear chains on his ankles, chisel stones for his remaining days, even become a goddamn Democrat for the gratification of personally expediting the tyrant’s journey back to the Devil, with whom he’d obviously made a pact.” With her masterful twinning of El Comandante and Herrera, along with the rabble of other Cuban voices that combine to create a chorus of history’s unofficial stories, García plumbs the passions and realities of these two Cubas—on the island and off—and offers a pulsating story that entertains and illuminates.

30 review for King of Cuba

  1. 4 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    This is a very witty take on Castro and his revolution, now an old man, living in his memories and his past glories. Reminiscing about the revolution when he was so beloved of his people. His wives, his mistresses, Che, how he settled hunger strikes, his magnetic personality, Batista and much more. Everything we learn about Cuba's past is through his memories. Goya, an 86 yr. old man, living in Miami, has hated Castro all these years, much of his ranch in Cuba had been taken for redistribution This is a very witty take on Castro and his revolution, now an old man, living in his memories and his past glories. Reminiscing about the revolution when he was so beloved of his people. His wives, his mistresses, Che, how he settled hunger strikes, his magnetic personality, Batista and much more. Everything we learn about Cuba's past is through his memories. Goya, an 86 yr. old man, living in Miami, has hated Castro all these years, much of his ranch in Cuba had been taken for redistribution when Castro came to power. Castro also seduced and got pregnant the woman Goya had loved. His life in the present is tumultuous, due to his grown children and he two dwells much in the past and his hatred. This is in many ways a spoof of two old men, in failing health, dwelling on past glories and feelings. Resentful that their youth is gone and how they are treated now. There are many amusing lines, interesting tidbits from the past and present but at times I still found this somewhat tedious. One does not read this for the history, but for an amusing take of a man who has been in power for a very long time.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Cherie

    DNF. Sorry, I can't do it anymore. Just dumb and lame.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Robin

    Thank you Scribner Books for sending me an advanced copy of this book. In 1956, Fidel Castro launched the Cuban Revolution to replace Fulgencio Batista with a communist regime and to secure ties with the Soviet Union. This larger-than-life revolutionary, who began life as the illegitimate son of a middle class sugar cane farmer, became one of the most controversial figures in history, credited by some as having destroyed Cuba, by others as saving the country from the demon of capitalism. His Thank you Scribner Books for sending me an advanced copy of this book. In 1956, Fidel Castro launched the Cuban Revolution to replace Fulgencio Batista with a communist regime and to secure ties with the Soviet Union. This larger-than-life revolutionary, who began life as the illegitimate son of a middle class sugar cane farmer, became one of the most controversial figures in history, credited by some as having destroyed Cuba, by others as saving the country from the demon of capitalism. His violent campaign employed guerilla tactics, torture and confiscating of private lands and industries. The King of Cuba is told through two points of view, the fictionalized version of dictator Fidel Castro, "El Commandante," and Goyo Herrera, an expatriate living in Miami. Nearing the end of his life, El Commandante wants to resurrect the sixty year-old glories of his regime by staging a reenactment of The Bay of Pigs, "to put an end to the creeping amnesia regarding the glories of the revolution." Goyo is plotting to exact revenge against the tyrant for destroying his beloved Cuba. Interspersed with short narratives from Cuban citizens, this is a gritty tale, replete with ribaldry, humor, geriatric infirmities and theatrical flourishes, a portrayal of two men struggling with the decline of Cuba as much as their own withering "pingas."

  4. 5 out of 5

    Ted Lehmann

    I'm not going to rate this book because I think it might be someone else's cup of rum. It's a novel concerning an anonymous but thinly disguised Cuban dictator now in old age and a Cuban emigre living in Miami. The character from Miami has only one goal in mind...outliving el Conquistador. It's written in a mordantly funny and pretty scatological voice which made me laugh a few times, but didn't interest me enough to finish reading it. I read 18% of it in a electronic galley provided by I'm not going to rate this book because I think it might be someone else's cup of rum. It's a novel concerning an anonymous but thinly disguised Cuban dictator now in old age and a Cuban emigre living in Miami. The character from Miami has only one goal in mind...outliving el Conquistador. It's written in a mordantly funny and pretty scatological voice which made me laugh a few times, but didn't interest me enough to finish reading it. I read 18% of it in a electronic galley provided by Edelweiss.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Elaine

    It was funny, ribald and refreshing at the beginning but nothing develops or changes, and I was skimming by the end.

  6. 4 out of 5

    John Thorndike

    I’m biased. Almost anything about Cuba fascinates me, and Cristina Garcia has become the definitive chronicler of both Cuba and Cuban exiles. Garcia’s approach to plot and narration is sometimes a trial. She doesn’t like a single point of view, but wanders through time and many characters. This worked perfectly in Dreaming in Cuban, but in The Lady Matador’s Hotel I thought it gave the book a skittish feel. I appreciate, in King of Cuba, Garcia’s new-found discipline in telling the story almost I’m biased. Almost anything about Cuba fascinates me, and Cristina Garcia has become the definitive chronicler of both Cuba and Cuban exiles. Garcia’s approach to plot and narration is sometimes a trial. She doesn’t like a single point of view, but wanders through time and many characters. This worked perfectly in Dreaming in Cuban, but in The Lady Matador’s Hotel I thought it gave the book a skittish feel. I appreciate, in King of Cuba, Garcia’s new-found discipline in telling the story almost entirely from the point of view of two men: El Comandante (also called the despot, the tyrant or El Líder---clearly this is Fidel) and a Miami exile, Goyo Herrera, who is as old and infirm as Castro. Garcia has channeled her impulse to write from many perspectives by scattering small vignettes and footnotes throughout the book: observations by imagined Cuban poets, meat inspectors and meteorologists. These don’t help the narrative drive of the story, but they are all bite-sized and don’t interfere for long. What I loved about the book is its portrait of old age. Of Goyo Herrera the author says, “He didn’t know a single Cuban of his generation who wasn’t besotted with the past.” Goyo’s last trip with his son, a man nearing sixty and perhaps schizophrenic, is filled with aching moments. “If only he could kiss his son’s eyes, wash his feet, take away his suffering, ease his inexhaustible heart.” But he cannot, and leaves him in a New Jersey motel, as Goyo himself drives on to New York. He’s on his way, if he can manage it, to assassinate El Comandante. Garcia’s portrait of the desperation and ignominies of old age, of the hopeless attempt to cleave to past glories, transcends Cuban history and brings us two men I found cantankerous and self-inflating, but irresistible.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Paul Pessolano

    “King of Cuba” by Cristina Garcia, published by Scribner. Category – Fiction/Literature Publication Date – May 21, 2013 El Comandante in this book is none other than Fidel Castro. Let there be no mistake about it and you can sugar coat in any way you want to but the book is about him. “King of Cuba” will have as its main reader’s people of Cuban descent that live in the Miami area and are refugees of the Fidel Castro Cuba, especially those who still dream of returning to their homeland. The book “King of Cuba” by Cristina Garcia, published by Scribner. Category – Fiction/Literature Publication Date – May 21, 2013 El Comandante in this book is none other than Fidel Castro. Let there be no mistake about it and you can sugar coat in any way you want to but the book is about him. “King of Cuba” will have as its main reader’s people of Cuban descent that live in the Miami area and are refugees of the Fidel Castro Cuba, especially those who still dream of returning to their homeland. The book revolves around the aging dictator and Goya Herrera. Goya is a refugee whose family was once prominent in the Cuban society. Goya wishes for only one thing and that is to outlive El Comandante. The story shifts between both men. El Comandante’s take over of Cuba and its move to Communism, and the dependency of Cuba on subsidies from the Soviet Union and the hardships it faces when those subsidies are lost with the downfall of the Soviet Union. Goya, who is besieged by family problems, blames El Comandante for ruining his country, stealing his true love, and the murder of his father. Goya becomes so incensed with hatred that he plans, at eighty years of age, to assassinate El Comandante. A good read but one that will be of interest to a very small sector of readers.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Mandapants

    Like the particular pair of old men it features, "King of Cuba" is somewhat slow to get going and meandering once it starts up. There are enough entertaining bits along the way to keep on going until the plot piddles out in an oddly quick wrap up. Mostly, it doesn't know what it wants to be. Is it a Rushdie-eqsue revisionist magical realism political novel, or a Hiaasanian Floridian comedy? I like both of these things, but "King of Cuba" is unsatisfactorily both and neither. Not a complaint, but Like the particular pair of old men it features, "King of Cuba" is somewhat slow to get going and meandering once it starts up. There are enough entertaining bits along the way to keep on going until the plot piddles out in an oddly quick wrap up. Mostly, it doesn't know what it wants to be. Is it a Rushdie-eqsue revisionist magical realism political novel, or a Hiaasanian Floridian comedy? I like both of these things, but "King of Cuba" is unsatisfactorily both and neither. Not a complaint, but on a fair warning note, there's enough semi-dirty and downright filthy Spanish in the novel to make me clear my Google translation history. And, dear Google Translate, why exactly do you know the word MILF anyway?

  9. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    Garcia is a master storyteller, and all of her work is worth reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this fictional imagining of a thinly veiled Fidel Castro's last days. The narrative is paralleled with a vengeful, aging Cuban exile provided plenty of humor and profundity. I did read this as Garcia's response to her earlier works, mostly Dreaming in Cuban and Aguero Sisters. The minor characters appeared in foot-noted narratives, a move similar to Junot Diaz's novel _Oscar Wao_. Literary nerds will love Garcia is a master storyteller, and all of her work is worth reading. I thoroughly enjoyed this fictional imagining of a thinly veiled Fidel Castro's last days. The narrative is paralleled with a vengeful, aging Cuban exile provided plenty of humor and profundity. I did read this as Garcia's response to her earlier works, mostly Dreaming in Cuban and Aguero Sisters. The minor characters appeared in foot-noted narratives, a move similar to Junot Diaz's novel _Oscar Wao_. Literary nerds will love references to Faust, Shakespeare, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. Overall, a darkly humorous and tender story about attempting to reclaim one's youth and regrets at the end of one's life, whether that entail an otherwise anonymous octogenarian or an infamous dictator.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Alicia

    Not nearly as good as Dreaming Cuban. Plot was jumbled, characters not likeable, etc.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Linda

    Sadly, I was very disappointed.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Londondailyphoto

    I bought this book, amongst others, as I was going on holiday to Cuba. While I would not characterise it as a bad book, overall it was tough going. It helps when you realise that the connection with reality is tenuous at best, although quite strong in overall tone: events described might have happened, people described could have existed, they just didn't. Writing style is effective in bringing the central two characters to life and flows reasonably, if it does wander down the occasional I bought this book, amongst others, as I was going on holiday to Cuba. While I would not characterise it as a bad book, overall it was tough going. It helps when you realise that the connection with reality is tenuous at best, although quite strong in overall tone: events described might have happened, people described could have existed, they just didn't. Writing style is effective in bringing the central two characters to life and flows reasonably, if it does wander down the occasional meaningless tributary. I really didn't enjoy the occasional ad hoc insertion of supposed third party comment which I found it intrusive; I ended up treating it as a footnote that could be ignored. The plot, such as it is, is a vehicle for the characters to play out their thoughts and emotions, and it is there that the strength of the book lies: two old men, looking back on their lives and looking forward, if only to a very close event horizon. Not one I would recommend.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Justin Morrison

    The book "King of Cuba" is about two larger than life men, Fidel Castro living in Cuba and a man exiled from Cuba, living in Miami and wanting revenge on Cuba's dictator. In the book Fidel Castro thinks about the end of his life after his 60 year old revolution. In Miami, the exile named Goyo Herrera plots to get revenge on his long time rival, Fidel Castro. Goyo blames Fidel for stealing his beloved, killing his father and ruining Cuba, his homeland. The book shows different perspectives of The book "King of Cuba" is about two larger than life men, Fidel Castro living in Cuba and a man exiled from Cuba, living in Miami and wanting revenge on Cuba's dictator. In the book Fidel Castro thinks about the end of his life after his 60 year old revolution. In Miami, the exile named Goyo Herrera plots to get revenge on his long time rival, Fidel Castro. Goyo blames Fidel for stealing his beloved, killing his father and ruining Cuba, his homeland. The book shows different perspectives of Cuba which provides an interesting story. I wouldn't recommend this book because I found the book to be slow at parts and uninteresting sometimes. The book wasn't for me, but I advise for other people to try out the book for themselves.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jenny Butler

    I read this book as an assignment for a college course. I would have abandoned it early on if I had chosen it myself. I appreciated learning more about the history of Cuba, but I did not enjoy reading the stories of the two main characters. I found both of them to be extremely unlikable without redeeming qualities. The minor characters were also unlikable or not developed enough to make a difference to me as the reader. Perhaps the only character I felt any empathy for was Rudy, the Great Dane I read this book as an assignment for a college course. I would have abandoned it early on if I had chosen it myself. I appreciated learning more about the history of Cuba, but I did not enjoy reading the stories of the two main characters. I found both of them to be extremely unlikable without redeeming qualities. The minor characters were also unlikable or not developed enough to make a difference to me as the reader. Perhaps the only character I felt any empathy for was Rudy, the Great Dane who died while chasing a deer.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brett Martinez

    King of Cuba is a fascinating read about two main characters in Goyo and El Comandante ( who is obviously Fidel Castro). Goyo is a Cuban exile whose only purpose for living is to kill the Cuban tyrant. It is truly fascinating. The only thing I dislike is that in each chapter there are these vignettes about a random character. To me they do not have much to do with the story. However, the story flowed well and really highlighted the passion that many Cuban exiles have in their hatred of Castro King of Cuba is a fascinating read about two main characters in Goyo and El Comandante ( who is obviously Fidel Castro). Goyo is a Cuban exile whose only purpose for living is to kill the Cuban tyrant. It is truly fascinating. The only thing I dislike is that in each chapter there are these vignettes about a random character. To me they do not have much to do with the story. However, the story flowed well and really highlighted the passion that many Cuban exiles have in their hatred of Castro and their desire to see their former homeland once again

  16. 4 out of 5

    Jan

    This is a strange book and having read many of the reviews I didnt have great hopes for it! Neither of the two main characters is very likeable (really they are two sides of the same coin) and they do not endear themselves to the reader at any point in the book. Having said that, I did actually enjoy the book although its hard to pinpoint exactly why!

  17. 4 out of 5

    David Garcia

    Yikes. Very hard time finding things to like with this effort. Being a first generation Cuban and lover of anything to do with history, culture, info etc I just couldn’t find a character to like or even feel empathy. The satire was lost on me unfortunately. The unusual character traits just left me feeling annoyed. Try Dreaming in Cuba and leave this one alone.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Heather Fineisen

    A parody of the practices and assassination attempts surrounding Castro. His brother plays a central part in the upcoming birthday celebrations. There is reenactment of the Bay of Pigs that turns into a Producer like entertainment. Goyo, an elderly exiled Cuban living in Florida, plots to kill the tyrant. Told with wit and colorful images. Copy provided by the Publisher and NetGalley

  19. 5 out of 5

    Tyler Burns

    You can check out my review here: https://youtu.be/cuSYxWcdY4Q

  20. 5 out of 5

    Amy

    took me all summer to read. never really got into it.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Richard Bull

    Amusing premise but weak ending

  22. 4 out of 5

    Linda

    First book read in the new year by an author new to me...a win-win!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Maria Aliferis-Gjerde

    I wasn't able to get into this book.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Nason

    A story about a fictionalized Fidel Casto and an exile who lives in Florida.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marie

    3.5 stars

  26. 4 out of 5

    Nancy McKibben

    King of Cuba Cristina Garcia This is the first time I have read anything by Garcia, already a well-established author whose works focus on Cuba and Cubans. In this novel, the aged Fidel Castro (referred to throughout as El Commandante) slouches around the island wondering where the Revolution, in which he still fiercely believes, has gone astray. His counterpart in Miami, aged Cuban exile Goyo Herrera, blames all the ills of his life on Castro. There was no one in the world he loathed more, no one King of Cuba Cristina Garcia This is the first time I have read anything by Garcia, already a well-established author whose works focus on Cuba and Cubans. In this novel, the aged Fidel Castro (referred to throughout as El Commandante) slouches around the island wondering where the Revolution, in which he still fiercely believes, has gone astray. His counterpart in Miami, aged Cuban exile Goyo Herrera, blames all the ills of his life on Castro. There was no one in the world he loathed more, no one for whom he stoked a more bottomless fury, no one else he unwaveringly blamed for invading, oppressing, and misshaping his life than that fearmongering, fatigues-wearing, egotistical brute who continued to call the shots from his deathbed overlooking the sea. Both men are trapped in an insipid old age. Goyo frets about his two strange adult children, and Castro about the Revolution that is soon to outlive him. Although there are some amusing plot twists, particularly when Castro’s brother turns the reenactment of the Bay of Pigs into a musical, the chief fun of the novel is being in the heads of El Commandante and Goyo. El Commandante is clearly a tyrant and a bully, but he fascinates us with his larger-than-life perspective: Damn it, how he loved to hear his voice fill a room; nothing was more powerful to him. Nothing sounded more like Cuba than his voice. It was bigger than him somehow. Oceanic. Invincible. He was two people: him and his voice. Fuck them all, he thought. Of course, both men are in their eighties. El Commandate’s hands “bulged from his wrists like oven mitts.” Goyo suffers from heart disease, and walks “at a thirty degree angle to the floor” thanks to crippling arthritis - not to mention irritable bowel syndrome, borderline diabetes, and intermittent impotence. Somehow the author makes of these two tottery old men a lively, engrossing and funny book, and Cuba itself becomes an engaging third character, as the reminiscences of the two Cubans trace the history and culture of the country - at least as seen by two former strong men in their dotage. Garcia’s prose is rollicking, and her characters thoroughly believable. Goyo’s and Castro’s thoughts are frequently and hilariously interrupted (although they don’t find it hilarious, of course) by their constant need to attend to various bodily ailments, and they muse at length on their sex lives, for the most part behind them now. King of Cuba is the best kind of novel to read: entertaining and instructive.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Laura

    I received a free copy of this book in a First Reads giveaway. Overall it was okay, but I wish there had been more of a plot and a more cohesive way to include the "other voices" into the story. The book mainly switches back and forth between two main characters: El Comandante (who I believe is supposed to be a Castro-esque character) and Goyo, a Cuban exile who hates El Comandante both for what he did to his beloved homeland in general and to someone he loved in particular. There are other I received a free copy of this book in a First Reads giveaway. Overall it was okay, but I wish there had been more of a plot and a more cohesive way to include the "other voices" into the story. The book mainly switches back and forth between two main characters: El Comandante (who I believe is supposed to be a Castro-esque character) and Goyo, a Cuban exile who hates El Comandante both for what he did to his beloved homeland in general and to someone he loved in particular. There are other voices, as I mentioned, throughout the book too. Sometimes this is accomplished via footnote and sometimes via a random paragraph between the two main characters' parts. They added interesting facts or bits of color here and there, but I'm not sure how well they helped further the book except to give very small glimpses of the rest of Cuba(/ns) that the main characters could not. I'm not even sure what is true and what has been fictionalized. I'm certainly no expert on Cuban culture or history. I liked the information, I just wish it had been integrated in some other way. Plot wise you just seem to be spending day after day in the heads of these two men who are both aging very ungracefully and both dissatisfied with how life has turned out. El Comandante wants the revolution to live on in a strong way, and Goyo basically wants El Comandante to die. Each is preoccupied, perhaps obsessed, with furthering their own goal in the face of what seem like unrealistic odds of success. They reminisce about the past (telling us more than showing us through flashbacks or something) and then ruminate on how unsatisfactory the present is. For all their stark political differences, they are quite similar in many respects. Unfortunately, one thing they had in common was that spending a lot of time in their heads wasn't particularly appealing to me. The end of the book was the only time I got confused on what was happening to who because the perspective/focus shifted more frequently, and I think that may have been purposeful. The most action in the book happens pretty much at the end. I might have liked a bit of summary from a voice standing a little further back and taking in the ending scenes as a whole instead of only from an individual Goyo/El Comandante point of view. Despite that, I think it was a satisfying and appropriate end to the book.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Dahlma

    I recently finished this novel and was totally taken by the characters, two old men coming to the end of their lives and agonizing over what they leave behind. The truly interesting aspect of this narrative is that the men are diametrically opposed in so many ways and yet have so many similarities. The tyrannical Comandante and the Miami-based Goyo are mirror images of each other who begin and end the narrative with much bravado, eventually coming to terms with the fact that, after all the hue I recently finished this novel and was totally taken by the characters, two old men coming to the end of their lives and agonizing over what they leave behind. The truly interesting aspect of this narrative is that the men are diametrically opposed in so many ways and yet have so many similarities. The tyrannical Comandante and the Miami-based Goyo are mirror images of each other who begin and end the narrative with much bravado, eventually coming to terms with the fact that, after all the hue and cry, the most vital parts of their lives are long over. Their accomplishments fall short of their intentions and the footprint they leave behind, is far from certain. In the end, they are just two old men, looking back on a life that's gone forever. As befits their stage in life, they examine the triumphs and disappointments of their lives. Some of the passages are heartrendingly beautiful (fireflies), others absurdly funny (an octogenarian joining guerrilleros in the Everglades), and others agonizingly sadistic(El comandante's macabre dinner for fasting dissidents). The role of memory is vital in the book. Regardless of where the characters find themselves physically, their minds inhabit a long ago Cuba which is the subtext of their lives. Sudden flashbacks without transitions parallel the reality of characters who inhabit both worlds simultaneously, the Comandante focusing on past military triumphs and Goyo yearning for a lavish lifestyle he left behind. Memory is a plague that contaminates the present because the characters learn nothing from the past. So intent are they on days gone by that the present disintegrates before their eyes as they watch helplessly. Parallel scenes which quickly follow each other also reinforce the similarities in the two characters--fire, rain,meals, hospital stays, all tie the two together. Ms. Garcia masterfully weaves a tale that spares no one. Well done.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Dominique

    I had high hopes for this book. I've read other books by the author and though some are arguably better than others, I was hopeful after I read a stellar New York Times review for this one. I thought it had to be amazing. Sadly, I was wrong, and that review was overly generous. To be fair, the book gets off to a great start, which made me even more excited to get through it. The writing is strong, the characters are well-drawn, and there's a lot of funny details. However, about halfway through I had high hopes for this book. I've read other books by the author and though some are arguably better than others, I was hopeful after I read a stellar New York Times review for this one. I thought it had to be amazing. Sadly, I was wrong, and that review was overly generous. To be fair, the book gets off to a great start, which made me even more excited to get through it. The writing is strong, the characters are well-drawn, and there's a lot of funny details. However, about halfway through the book I found myself very bored. The plot just didn't go anywhere. The relationships around the two main characters are flimsy and feel like cariacatures after a while. The two male protagonists are unlikable, which is fine, but they don't seem to have any redeeming qualities, even to the people close to them who seem to care about them. The chapters feel like endless ruminating and no real action, and the little action there is seems random and inconsequential. I enjoyed the asides from other characters throughout and actually found them more interesting than the rest of the book after a while. By the last third of the book I had a hard time paying attention and had to force myself to finish it, though the end was not at all worth the effort. I was disappointed by this book because I think there was a lot of potential to explore more about the exile community, and show more perspectives. In the end, it just felt too fluffy and light for the subject matter. I know it's satire, but I still craved more substance. I'll give it three stars because the writing is great despite the other flaws in the novel.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Kara

    For some reason, I didn't think I was going to particularly like King of Cuba the more I read about the book and author in advance of the novel itself. Well, Cristina Garcia served me some process; this book is pretty awesome! A major strength of the novel -- and an asset that could yield a wide audience of satisfied readers -- is its humor. It permeates the novel from its essential concept to the details of the storytelling from beginning to end. I would be surprised to hear of many readers who For some reason, I didn't think I was going to particularly like King of Cuba the more I read about the book and author in advance of the novel itself. Well, Cristina Garcia served me some process; this book is pretty awesome! A major strength of the novel -- and an asset that could yield a wide audience of satisfied readers -- is its humor. It permeates the novel from its essential concept to the details of the storytelling from beginning to end. I would be surprised to hear of many readers who didn't find this book fairly amusing; I'd say such a view would probably fall out of the mainstream. Although, then again, what do I know about the mainstream, as such? ;) The novel is beautifully and clearly framed by two quotations from poets -- one written in English and the other in Spanish. The larger than life character duo at the center of the story -- a pseudo-Fidel Castro and Cuban-American exile who hates the dictator -- serves as a perfect focal point. The characters play off each other beautifully through the course of the book. Existential questions are addressed -- cleverly and adeptly -- by Garcia, to an extent remarkable in a text of only 235 pages, which accomplishes other artistic purposes as well. The ending is outstanding. It not only matches the quality and content of the text preceding it -- it meets a higher standard and improves each past part of the novel, as well as cementing a strong overall impression of the book in the reader's mind. I am eager to give this book a second read as soon as possible!

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