Maria Sirena Tells Stories She Does It For Money She Was A Favorite In The Cigar Factory Where She Worked As A Lettora And For Love, Spinning Gossamer Tales Out Of Her Own Past For The Benefit Of Friends, Neighbors, And Family But Now, Like A Modern Day Scheherazade, She Will Be Asked To Tell One Last Story So That Eight Women Can Keep Both Hope And Themselves Alive Cuba,Hurricane Flora, One Of The Deadliest Hurricanes In Recorded History, Is Bearing Down On The Island Seven Women Have Been Forcibly Evacuated From Their Homes And Herded Into The Former Governor S Mansion, Where They Are Watched Over By Another Woman, A Young Soldier Of Castro S New Cuba Named Ofelia Outside The Storm Is Raging And The Floodwaters Are Rising In A Single Room On The Top Floor Of The Governor S Mansion, Maria Sirena Begins To Tell The Incredible Story Of Her Childhood During Cuba S Third War Of Independence Of Her Father Augustin, A Ferocious Rebel Of Her Mother, Lulu, An Astonishing Woman Who Fought, Loved, Dreamed, And Suffered As Fiercely As Her Husband Stories, However, Have A Way Of Taking On A Life Of Their Own, And Transported By Her Story S Momentum, Maria Sirena Will Reveal About Herself Than She Or Anyone Ever Expected Chantel Acevedo S The Distant Marvels Is An Epic Adventure Tale, A Family Saga, A Love Story, A Stunning Historical Account Of Armed Struggle Against Oppressors, And A Long Tender Plea For Forgiveness It Is, Finally, A Life Affirming Novel About The Kind Of Love That Lasts A Lifetime And The Very Art Of Storytelling Itself A book that starts in the 1960 s and gives the history of Cuba through the eyes of Maria Sirena now at the end of her life as she shelters with other women during a hurricane.Maria Sirena is known for her storytelling skills and so she distracts the women by telling her history which is the history of Cuba and the revolution to achieve freedom from Spain I like the way the story weaves the past and the present and the other women s stories add just enough to the storyline. Perhaps she is right, that there is no reason to suffering, no fair dealing when it comes to meting out bliss and pain There are just choices, and the echoes of those choices. The memory of her in that moment, ragged and hostile, remained a vague one for a long time It became clear only a few months later, when I d seen enough to make meaning of those blurry shapes I cannot pinpoint the exact moment when the remembrance suddenly sharpened in my head, but it was similar to the feeling of putting on eyeglasses for the first time. I realized two things that night The first was that LuLu admired my father in direct relation to his status as a rebel She d left Julio Reyes in Havana without much of a thought once Agustin returned, bloody and smelling of smoke Now, at Dos Rios, another man threatened to trump my father s allegiance to the cause, and hence, take his place in my mother s estimation.A lush and beautifully written book, I loved hearing the stories of Maria Sirena s life and what she and her family went through It draws you in and it s easy to get lost in the story.At times, the book dipped back and forth, for short times it wouldn t keep me interested but then would bounce back It s a low key novel in some ways and it does pull at your heartstrings I would recommend it, be patient and just flow with the story, it may surprise you.Happy reading There are many things to like about this book It s kind of like the slow burn in some spicy food It doesn t immediately hit you, but grows as you eat and then lingers for awhile after you re done One image that has stuck with me is that of the main character s job as a lector reading out loud to workers in tobacco factories The book also made realize how ignorant I am of Cuban history, something I hope to rectify so if anyone has any good reading recommendations for this, let me know. This book reminded me a bit of Bel Canto, which I haven t read in a long time The historical life of Cuba was interesting and the family story was fascinating and beautiful There is so much pain, love, hate, war, healing, all wrapped up in one storyteller s tale Please read it Beautiful storytelling, a portal into an old Spanish American War Cuba an unfamiliar world to me, but the loves, losses, relationships of women are a language I know Cleverly written epic within a story, both tragedies and yet still holding strength and hope This would be a fun one to read in a book group, picking apart characters and plot points. I m not one for reviews, but this book truly was the Cuban epic it claimed to be Not only did I leave this novel feeling challenged emotionally, I also left each reading session thinking critically about the low points of history specifically Cuban and what lessons lie therein Acevedo s incredible gift of story weaving served to accentuate how rooted this narrative is in the historical events it strove to depict In and among the inventive storytelling was one of the author s most interesting themes humanity s inability to learn from history Do we actually learn or, rather, follow a trajectory of past events To be honest, I m still wrestling an honest answer to that question In my opinion, if a work of fiction causes that much reflection on the real while captivating the imagination , it is a piece of literature worth reading. I m rather ignorant of many things, and Cuba s history is one of them, so it has been fascinating reading this novel It s set in 1963 when a group of mostly old women has been evacuated from their homes to escape the devastation of Hurricane Flora With nothing to do except talk, Maria Sirena finds herself recounting her life story and the tales her mother told her, though the book spends much of its time in the years of the Cuban War of Independence 1895 1898 Mind you, the Independence Movement had its first armed conflict in 1836, so these years were simply the culmination of the struggle And Maria, born of parents totally committed to independence, knew nothing else.Not only did this book educate me, but it drew me into the story I love the writing style the voice of a storyteller is evoked beautifully, and the memories of being a child and then a young woman no such thing as separate teenage years back then are strong and clear Also, an old woman s regrets are deeply lived through both Maria Sirena and the women she confesses to This is a powerful story. Mama, como te queiro, my daughter whispers, proving what I already know that there can be no safe place, no body that does not grow ill at last, no escape from death or absolute safety from storms But that love, in its full measure, is a kind of swirling tempest, too, and in its eye, there is stillness and comfort and peace I did not intend to read another book about revolution on a small island when I picked this up, since I just finished a novel about war in Sri Lanka, but after I experienced the writing in this one, it was too late This one takes place in Cuba, with the birth of Maria Sirena in 1881, whose parents were revolutionaries trying to gain independence from Spain It ends in 1963, just as Castro has come into power We get Maria s tragic story as she tells it to other elderly women evacuated during Hurricane Flora.As sometimes happens when I read well researched, well written historical novels, I learned so much about the history of Cuba from this one Spain fought long and hard for this island, but Cubans fought longer and harder for their freedom Germany was not the first country to have concentration camps The Spanish simply walled in the villages in Cuba and left the people to die with no food or water, then threw their bodies behind the fences to be eaten by vultures Who needs gas and ovens when you can just let nature take its course Maria Sirena told her story so people wouldn t forget Fiction, yes, but it worked in my case I won t easily forget this novel, or the people in it. If you are looking fordiverse reads or are interested in readingfrom an Hispanic author, this story begins in 1963 in Castro s Cuba A storyteller tries to keep the ladies calm as they ride out the a hurricane in the former Governor s Palace She tells her own story and that of her father and mother in Cuba s third war for independence Most of the book circles around this time period Some of the themes that are introduced include the importance of storytelling, race, the War for Independence, rebellion and freedom It s interesting that in fighting for freedom they actually got Communism It seemed in the book they were fighting against something Spain and didn t really know what they were fighting for freedom but what is freedom Some adult content.
Chantel Acevedo holds an MFA from the University of Miami Her novel, Love and Ghost Letters St Martin s Press, 2005 , won the Latino International Book Award for Best Historical Fiction, and was nominated for Connecticut Book of the Year Her other novels include A Falling Star Carolina Wren Press, 2013 , winner of the Doris Bakwin Award, Song the Red Cloak, a historical novel for young adult
- 304 pages
- The Distant Marvels
- Chantel Acevedo
- 20 October 2017 Chantel Acevedo