“A touch of otherness” is what ails the émigré Cubans who populate this novel. They speak accented English. They communicate imperfectly. Of Pilar, she writes: “Maybe in the end the facts are not as important as the underlying truth she wants to convey.” The conveyance, for Garcia, demands making human sense of a disconnected past the begins in pre-Castro Cuba and incorporates his coming as both welcome and heartbreak. Garcia’s book helped open the door to countless novels about dispossessed ethnicity.
Born in Havana, Garcia has the gift of dazzle. Lourdes, being raped by a soldier, “smelled his face on his wedding day.” Celia, pregnant, writes to Gustavo: “A fat wax grows inside me. It’s looting my veins. I rock like a buoy in the harbor.” In New York, says Pilar, “the sky gets too much competition.” The magical realism might be overwrought if Garcia’s three-generation story weren’t so tactile.