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Posted January 23, 2012
Almost forty years ago my wife escaped from Cuba as a young child, with her parents and younger brother. Since then, she has often recounted the trauma of this escape, and the struggles her family faced in rebuilding their lives in Spain - and subsequently here in Australia.
As she read this book she was astonished at the uncanny similarity between the author's experiences and those of her own family. Luis's story rekindled many distant, yet defining, memories, sights, smells, and feelings. To learn that her own story has been 'shared' and now 'told' (almost exactly!) was both a surprise, and perhaps more importantly, a visible comfort.
There seems to be a growing amount of misinformation about the Cuban people today, but as someone who has heard this true story (for over twenty years now) I recommend this narrative as a clear and accurate part of the "true story" of Cuba. The horrors, fears and terrible emotional abuse revealed here may shock some readers, but they are NOT exaggerated. (My wife's father almost died in the Cuban labour camps after seeking permission to leave.) People who experience REAL trauma rarely embellish 'their story' - because sympathy without understanding does not bring true healing. (There's a big difference between emotion and community.) A glipse into the author's own sense of community is seen in moving dedication of the book - "to those who choose to live in exile."
Luis's style is warm and engaging; he has a sharp eye for those little details that "set the trees swaying" in a narrative. He is also a shrewd observer and recorder of human nature - with an almost 'Dickensian' ability to highlight those easily-overlooked character traits that define individuals. I remember my wife laughing as she read his vivid account of that delightfully Cuban "nothing is impossible" attitude. She read the passage, smiled with recognition, and said, "That's EXACTLY how they are."