National Book Award, Nonfiction, 2003
A childhood in a privileged household in 1950s Havana was joyous and cruel, like any other - but with certain differences. The neighbor's monkey was liable to escape and run across your roof. Surfing was conducted by driving cars across the breakwater. Lizards and firecrackers made frequent contact.
Carlos Eire's childhood was a little different from most. His father was convinced he had been Louis XVI in a past life. At school, classmates with fathers in the Batista government were attended by chauffeurs and bodyguards. At a home crammed with artifacts and paintings, portraits of Jesus spoke to him in dreams and nightmares. Then, in January 1959, the world changed: Batista was suddenly gone, a cigar-smoking guerrilla took his place, and Christmas was cancelled. The echo of firing squads was everywhere. And, one by one, the author's schoolmates begin to disappear - spirited away to the United States. Carlos would end up there himself, without his parents, never to see his father again.
Narrated with the urgency of a confession, Waiting for Snow in Havana is both an ode to a paradise lost and an exorcism. More than that, it captures the terrible beauty of those times when we are certain we have died - and then are somehow, miraculously, reborn.
©2003 Carlos Eire (P)2011 Tantor
"As painful as Eire's journey has been, his ability to see tragedy and suffering as a constant source of redemption is what makes this book so powerful." (Publishers Weekly)
Say something about yourself!
I have read numerous books on Cuba, the Cuban Revolution, the principle players at the time and the part America played in it. While mildly amusing at times, I found this book to be historically incorrect at times and just plain boring. After struggling to the end of the book, I was just glad it was over.
Both, and for the same reasons... The people, the country, the times and the culture.
Just wonderful, I can finally recommend a book to my American friends that explains what we Cuban American immigrants really experienced in pre and post-revolutionary Cuba. I am so glad that this story is finally being told and hopefully understood.
I am the child of a Cuban immigrant and was very excited to listen to this book. The story is very different from my family's, as is every immigrant story. It was interesting, but I really struggled with the narrator. I'm sure he's great when imparting another story, but this one is told in the first person by someone who not only speaks Spanish as a first language, but throws Spanish words in throughout the story. Listening to a non-Spanish speaker say Spanish words with an audible American accent when playing the role of a native Spanish speaker was terrible. It constantly broke down the 4th wall and, for me, made the story difficult to listen to. Bad casting!
His powers of description are amazing, and he can evoke an emotion like few others.
Did he ever learn compassion for those beneath him on the social scale or did he stay the same spoiled self-absorbed snob forever?
He provides lots of insight into the tunnel vision of Cuban exiles in the 60s and 70s, and sadly still today.
This is the third book on Cuba I have read since my recent trip there. I thought the narration was excellent, both for the first person and the voices of the other characters. I don't really see why others did not like the narrator.
At times the story wandered a bit, but I am sure it was intentional to illustrate the wandering of the boy's mind. I am not able to comment on the historical accuracy, but since this is a memoir, I take it to be the way the author remembers it. Lots of funny and interesting personal stories set within the larger issue of Cuba. Nostalgic for anyone brought up in the 1950's. It covers a lot of ground in the author's life, and does jump back and forth a bit, but there is no problem following what is going on. Definitely entertaining and a wonderful peek into the past of the author.
Thank you Carlos for making me go deep into my Cuban Abyss.... I loved how you described in vivid detail our childhood, the lost and gain ..... I left in 1961 and have never returned. Your book is beautifully written
Very much was moved by this book. So many juicy metaphors and the reading was terrific!
I binged listened, and can't wait to go to Cuba in two months!
The author takes you with him with beautiful words and captures this Cuban experience that transcends to many people in many cultures!
Say something about yourself!
I have read so many books that include Cuba. Mostly political, some about the revolution and pre Castro. The only information made available is in regards to conflict, politics, assignations, communism. None about the people which are swept aside as insignificant. I was so happy to find to find a book someone wrote about their family and childhood there, to bring me to some understanding about the everyday people. I was vert gratfeul to find this book. A real treasure.
The honesty and sincerity the author shares. That took a lot of courage in some parts. His writing in many parts is very poetic, almost like reading prose. The way he covers details that bring the images into clear focus. I too was orphaned, at a much younger age, but his situation was very real to me.
The moments that bring our frail humanity into focus, the mystery of dust particles and notions such as these that he conveys. The poetic description of the supernatural and magic. Also the very witty humor he inserts into situations.
This writer is very unique and gifted. I see a lot of promise in his future. We live in a society that has slid into illiteracy on so many levels, it is a shame such rich and meaningful literature may not be showcased as it could be. This is a classic, and far superior to anything Scott Fitzgerald produced.
I believe the book is good... the story is good... compelling... sad... informative... really really good actually... the narrator ruined this for me personally... His voice was just not a great match for the story, I feel...
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