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Love and Ghost Letters

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"From the outside, Josefina Navarro's life seems fortunate: she lives with her father and her nursemaid, Regla, who has been raising her since the death of her mother in a luxurious home in Vedado, one of Cuba's wealthiest districts. She attends society dances and is courted by all of Havana's elite young bachelors." "Enchanted by the rituals of her nursemaid, Josefina learns about the profound mysticism inherent in even the most mundane affairs. Though she is pampered, Josefina feels that her life is without passion or excitement. Her father,
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2005 Hard cover New in New Dust Jacket. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 312 p. Audience: General/trade. (W7B)

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2005 Hard cover New in new dust jacket. New unread book, possibly some light shelfwear. Glued binding. Paper over boards. With dust jacket. 312 p. Audience: General/trade. ... (KMC-63) Read more Show Less

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Overview

"From the outside, Josefina Navarro's life seems fortunate: she lives with her father and her nursemaid, Regla, who has been raising her since the death of her mother in a luxurious home in Vedado, one of Cuba's wealthiest districts. She attends society dances and is courted by all of Havana's elite young bachelors." "Enchanted by the rituals of her nursemaid, Josefina learns about the profound mysticism inherent in even the most mundane affairs. Though she is pampered, Josefina feels that her life is without passion or excitement. Her father, Sergeant Antonio Navarro, a Spaniard by birth, is a stern and demanding man whose past is a tightly kept secret. When she meets and marries Lorenzo Concepcion, a poor, reckless young man, her father tells her, "So, you have chosen him... and you will be hungry and miserable all your life."" "The couple moves to El Cotorro, a poverty-stricken town that is far removed from the Vedado plazas and carefully tended gardens Josefina knew. Then Lorenzo begins to leave her for months at a time, "looking for work," but in reality, womanizing and carousing all over the island. Even after the birth of two healthy children, Josefina is not happy. This is not the life she had envisioned." "During a political maelstrom, history brings the sergeant to El Cotorro to quell a riot in which he is attacked and presumed dead. But perception is reality on an island where darkness and light commingle, and magic and truth are one and the same." "When Josefina begins receiving letters from her father, she believes that they are heaven's missives - ghost letters. Through the letters, Josefina comes to know her father intimately, as a ghost and guardian, as he reveals the truth about his life. In the act of writing and reading, she has found a love to fill the empty places in her heart." Set in Miami and Cuba and covering nearly fifty years of that island's history, Love and Ghost Letters unfolds the lives of the members of the Navarro-Concepcion fa
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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
This debut from a first-generation Cuban American whose work in secondary education has won her two Fulbright awards describes the relationships between motherless young Josefina and both her police sergeant father and her nursemaid. Raised in a sun-drenched wealthy enclave of pre-Castro Havana, Josefina grows up lovingly cocooned by the magic and rituals of her nurse, Regla, and is denied nothing material by her doting father. After Josefina's marriage to a wastrel husband, her father disinherits her and then, presumed dead after a riot, he heads for Miami. So it seems magical to Josefina when she starts receiving letters from her father-presumably from beyond the grave. These letters simply chronicle 30 some years of intimate, multigenerational family ties, from the 1930s to the 1960s. While Acevedo's novel lacks the complexity of other recent Cuban American works, e.g., Cristina Garc a's Monkey Hunting, it is still a welcome addition to the growing genre.-Mary Margaret Benson, Linfield Coll. Lib., McMinniville, OR Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Acevedo's debut novel is a multigenerational story of life and love in Cuba from 1934 to 1969. When Josefina Navarro is born, her nurse foresees an unhappy life. As a young woman, Josefina seems determined to realize this destiny. Bored with the privilege she has known, she desires romance and risk-both of which are embodied in Lorenzo Concepci-n. When Josefina marries him, she leaves Havana for a squalid village, and she trades the protective love of her father for her husband's persistent infidelity and aversion to gainful employment. Years pass, miserably. After he almost dies in a riot, Antonio Navarro determines to reconcile with his daughter. Unfortunately, Navarro has been reported dead, and, arriving at Josefina's house, he overhears what he thinks is satisfaction as she speaks of his death. Despondent, he leaves Cuba for Miami. From there, he writes loving letters to Josefina and he pays El Cotorro's butcher to hand-deliver these missives. Josefina doesn't see these letters as evidence of her father's survival; instead, she decides that he's writing from heaven. She falls in love with the man who-unbeknownst to her-conveys these "ghost letters." Josefina will lose her lover and find him again. She will rediscover her love for her husband, too, after he is rendered silent and immobile by a stroke. She will even reunite with her father, but none of this feels particularly significant. This story is full of incident and detail, but the action seems inconsequential and the lyrical descriptions never add up to real, knowable characters. It hardly matters, then, that Acevedo has doomed her creations to an inverted magical realism, that-with her fake miracle and her fruitless dabblingin Santer'a-she invokes enchantment only to deny it, and she offers little in the way of more mundane hope. Josefina's elderly menage a trois, her daughter's escape to Florida: The first is dubious, the second is only briskly described and both are shadowed by Castro's revolution, introduced by Acevedo in an epilogue. Listless, unfocused, dispiriting.
From the Publisher
"[An] exceptionally fine first novel…. Acevedo shapes each of her characters with clear-eyed reverence, guiding their steps in measured, lyrical prose that is often breath-taking, exquisite…. And this is the author's genius: the line she walks between fact and fairy tale, history and wistful story, the magic that radiates, naturally, from the quirks and coincidences of daily life and what is (often) too easily celebrated—or dismissed—as otherworldly, supernatural."—A. Manette Ansay for The Chicago Tribune

"Acevedo is a fine storyteller…. [Love and Ghost Letters] unfolds with a leisurely pleasure that feels like magic realism."—Christian Science Monitor

"Acevedo, a first-generation Cuban-American, lyrically illustrates the changing social, economic and political landscape in this tumultuous period in Cuba's history. She has filled her novel with enchanting details, down to the red, white and blue paper roses at that first society dance and the recipes Josefina's nanny concocts to make Lorenzo faithful to his wife."—Miami Herald

"[Acevedo's] writing is luscious, painting beautifully tragic pictures. Love and Ghost Letters takes a hard look at how closely wedded love and money are, without turning away from the ugliness of social inequality. The magic of the narrative is in the weaving of the personal with the public with such a poetic sensibility and fluidity of style that the reader is completely submerged into the trials of a Cuban family and the contradictions of Cuban society."—South Florida Sun-Sentinel

"...a quirky, charming story of filial love...a distinctly Latin mystique and a style of writing that juxtaposes the mysterious and the mundane."—Miami Today

"Love and Ghost Letters is an enchanting novel; a heartfelt story, it tells volumes about the intimate life and loves of a family in pre-Castro Cuba. Along the way, it captures, beautifully, the atmosphere and emotions of a time which, both Cuban Americans and many an American reader, will find both reminiscent and fulfilling. A great debut." — Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love: A Novel and A Simple Habana Melody

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780312340469
  • Publisher: St. Martin's Press
  • Publication date: 9/1/2005
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 5.82 (w) x 8.28 (h) x 1.18 (d)

Meet the Author

Chantel Acevedo is a first-generation Cuban-American whose childhood combined American modernity with traditional Cuban values.  She attended  the M.F.A. creative writing program at the University of Miami on a James Michener Fellowship.  She has won two Fulbright Awards for secondary education.

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Reading Group Guide

On the outside, Josefina Navarro’s life seems fortunate enough—she lives with her father and her nursemaid, Regla, who raises her after the death of her mother in a luxurious home in Vedado, one of Cuba’s wealthiest districts. She attends society dances and is courted by all of Havana’s elite young bachelors. Enchanted by the rituals of her nursemaid, Josefina learns about the profound mysticism inherent in even the most mundane affairs. Though she is pampered, Josefina feels that her life is without passion or excitement. Her father, Sergeant Antonio Navarro, a Spaniard by birth, is a stern and demanding man whose past is a tightly kept secret.

When she meets and marries Lorenzo Concepción, a poor, reckless young man, the sergeant tells her, “So, you have chosen him…and you will be hungry and miserable all your life. The couple moves to El Cotorro, a poverty-stricken town that is far removed from the Vedado plazas and carefully tended gardens Josefina knew. Lorenzo begins to leave her for months at a time, “looking for work,” but in reality, womanizing and carousing all over the island. Even after the birth of two healthy children, Josefina is not happy. This is not the life she had envisioned.

During a political maelstrom, history brings the sergeant to El Cotorro to quell a riot, where he is attacked and presumed dead. But perception is reality on an island in which darkness and light commingle, and magic and truth are one in the same.

When Josefina begins receiving letters from her father, she believes that what she holds are heaven’s missives, ghost letters. Through the letters, Josefina comes to know her father intimately, as a ghost and guardian, as he reveals the truth about his life. In the act of writing and reading, she has found a love to fill the empty places in her heart.

Set in Cuba and Miami, covering nearly fifty years of the island’s history, LOVE AND GHOST LETTERS unfolds the lives of the Navarro-Concepción families in the patterns and permutations of memory, and conjures a Cuban setting that evokes mysticism and magic.

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 10, 2006

    Captivating

    Chantel Acevedo's book transported me to another world. Her descriptive writing style and extensive character development kept me turning the pages!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 11, 2005

    Wonderful Debut

    Ms. Acevedo's novel transformed me to the Cuba I had only heard about from the stories my grandmother and mother used to tell me. Her descriptions of the settings help the reader actually 'see' the Cuba of Old. The story flows at a great pace. The way Ms. Acevedo tells her story, reminds me of the way my grandmother would tell her stories of when she was young. I would recomend this book to anyone who is interested about life in Cuba before Castro came into power.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 1, 2005

    Enchanting

    This is a story that captures, beautifully the atmosphere and longing of a time in Pre-Castro Cuba that has long been lost. The story unfolds with clarity and well developed characters spanning decades of Love and enchantment between a Father & daughter. I would highly recommend the book for anyone who enjoys reading storys similar to those written by Nicolas Sparks, but set in a different country. Great Read!

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