Reviews

Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Unexpectedly global: a Chinese man enslaved on an1850s Cuban sugar plantation eventually wins his freedom and grows old in Havana, even as his granddaughter perishes in a Maoist prison and his great-grandson wends his way to America and thence Vietnam. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Book list
From Booklist, Copyright © American Library Association. Used with permission.

Garcia, of Dreaming in Cuban (1992) and The Aguero Sisters (1997) renown, writes pristinely lyrical and enchanting prose, and creates powerfully alluring characters, delectable qualities she takes to new heights in this many-faceted tale about an extended Chinese Cuban family. The novel begins in China in 1857 when Chen Pan is tricked into indentured servitude and shipped to Cuba where he is sold as a slave and put to work cutting sugar cane. Strong and resilient, he eventually escapes and becomes a successful and upright Havana businessman who gallantly liberates a mulatto slave, Lucrecia, and her infant son. In between passages devoted to Chen Pan and Lucrecia, who eventually become lovers, Garcia travels back to China to tell the harrowing tale of Chen Fang--an unwanted third daughter disguised as a son in her youth and deprived of everything she holds dear as an adult once the communists come to power--then moves on to 1960s Vietnam, where Domingo, the son of a Chinese Cuban herbalist, barely survives the war. Gorgeously detailed and entrancingly told, erotic, mystical, and wise, Garcia's bittersweet saga of a family of remarkable individuals spans a century of displacement, war, and sacrifice, and a world of forbearance and love. --Donna Seaman


Library Journal
(c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

In her third novel, Cuban-born American Garc!a deepens her inquiry into what it means to be Cuban-and what it means to be an immigrant. Here, she chronicles the fortunes of Chen Pan, a Chinese who is enslaved in the Cuban sugar fields in 1857 and later becomes a prosperous businessman in Havana; the mulata slave Lucrecia, whose relationship with Chen Pan is poignantly rendered; and their descendants: Lorenzo, a doctor of herbal medicine in Havana; lesbian Chen Fang, a teacher imprisoned for counterrevolutionary activities in Mao's China; and Domingo Chen, an immigrant to New York City who serves in the U.S. Army in Vietnam. Garcia clearly enjoys playing with the form of the novel; her narrative shifts gracefully from third to first person, and the 19th and 20th centuries seamlessly intermingle, as do Buddhism and Santer!a. Like the author's highly acclaimed Dreaming in Cuban and The Aguero Sisters, this is a brilliantly conceived work-and it's also delightful reading. Highly recommended for all academic and large public libraries. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 1/03.]-Mary Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinnville, OR (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Publishers Weekly
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The Chinese-Cuban experience is plumbed in this graceful third novel by Garcia (Dreaming in Cuban; The Agero Sisters), encompassing five far-flung generations, four countries and two tumultuous centuries. Farm boy Chen Pan leaves his native China in 1857, dreaming of the riches awaiting him in mysterious Cuba. Instead, he is obliged to work on a sugarcane plantation, subjected to the atrocities of forced servitude in a country that is not his own and in which he is viewed with suspicion. He eventually manages to escape and creates a life for himself beyond his wildest dreams, as a successful small-business owner, beloved husband and doting father. Becoming almost more Cuban than Chinese, he falls in love with Lucrecia, a former slave. His mixed-blood descendants, scattered between Cuba and China, struggle to find their place in a world that strives to keep its ethnic and geographical boundaries distinct. Chen Fang, a granddaughter raised as a boy in China, is a remarkable woman who manages to get an education and become a teacher, eventually landing in one of Mao's appalling prisons in 1970 Shanghai. As a teenager, great-grandson Domingo Chen departs Cuba for New York with his father and faces the same hostility and racism there that Chen Pan dealt with in mid-19th-century Havana. Domingo's journey from Cuba to New York then Vietnam is told in unsparing detail, bringing the novel full circle. Though Garcia ranges farther afield here than in previous works, her prose is as tight and polished as ever. The book is rather short for its span, and a bit more development of some characters-particularly Chen Fang-would have been welcome, but that is a mere quibble. Garcia's novel is a richly patterned mini-epic, a moving chorus of distinct voices. (Apr. 22) Forecast: Garcia's latest (released in a first printing of 50,000 copies) may take a bit more selling than her previous novels, since the focus is more eclectic, but her track record is stellar, and interest will be considerable. (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved