This is the New York Times bestselling debut novel by the author of the Folio Prize shortlisted The Flamethrowers. It is a New York Times bestseller. It is the finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction. Fidel and Raul Castro are in the hills, descending only to burn sugarcane plantations and recruit rebels. Rachel K is in Havana's Cabaret ...
This is the New York Times bestselling debut novel by the author of the Folio Prize shortlisted The Flamethrowers. It is a New York Times bestseller. It is the finalist for the National Book Award in Fiction. Fidel and Raul Castro are in the hills, descending only to burn sugarcane plantations and recruit rebels. Rachel K is in Havana's Cabaret Tokio, entangled with a French agitator trying to escape his shameful past. Everly and K.C. are growing up in the dying days of a crumbling US colony, about to discover the cruelty and violence that have created their childhood idyll.
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Now that Ms. Kushner has published her second novel, the highly acclaimed /Flamethrowers/, her earlier work will be in demand. An exceptional writer and artist.
Jul 12, 2009
Cuba in the fifties was a paradise for American expats. For employees of the United Fruit Company and the Nicaro Nickel Company--for the American employees, anyway--there were servants (carefully trained to cook good American food), parties, and private schools. For Cubans, and for the Haitians and Dominicans brought in as laborers, there was a life of servitude to people who couldn't even be bothered to taste the local cuisine, let alone learn the language.
Telex from Cuba is set in the years between 1952 and 1958, when all the Americans were evacuated in the aftermath of the revolution. Although it is a savvy and realistic story, due to Kushner's plumbing of family correspondence and memories, as well as solid historical research, it is not a grim one. We meet presidents and dictators, revolutionaries and show girls and speculators. But mostly, we become involved in the lives of the Americans who inhabit Preston and Nicaro, company towns of the United Fruit Company and Nicaro Nickel Company respectively.
The story consists of two narrative threads. The first is told by KC Stites, younger son of a United Fruit Company executive, who has spent his whole life in Cuba. The second is a third person narrative which, although it moves among the perspectives of various Americans, adult and child, in Nicaro, comes to us most vividly from that of Everly Lederer, who has just arrived with her family at the beginning of the novel. Both points of view are fresh and distinct, and all of the characters are complex and real.
Although this novel could not be called magical realism, still, there's something about the tropics, the sheer sensory, sensual overload of them, that feels magical, even when all of the events are strictly earthbound. Fragrance, color, heat, humidity, the brilliant sun, the sudden drenching rain, bananas and guavas and mangoes and limes and pineapples, sweat--and everybody sweats a lot, rotting vegetation, the sugar cane and nickel refineries--how can there be so much to see taste smell touch in such a small place?
Rachel Kushner's writing is gorgeous, simple and rich, and--mostly--just right for the period in which it's set. There are one or two jarring anachronisms of phrase, such as when the narrator says that a daughter has "outed" her father as a Cuban, but these are minor when placed in the context of the whole.
Telex From Cuba is a novel which has the potential to be a creeping bestseller, one that, perhaps, doesn't hit with a bang, but which word of mouth--and book groups, wonderful book groups!--keeps moving along.
Publishers Weekly, 2008-12-22 This stunning debut novel tells a truly inspired and unforgettable tale of two young children, Everly and K.C., who live and work on a sugar farm in Cuba during an uprising led by the Castro brothers. Filled with rich imagery, loathsome characters and unyielding passion, Kushner's plot and prose are refreshing and original. Lloyd James's spirited reading captures every aspect of Kushner's story; he can easily tug at listeners' heartstrings and guide them on a remarkable journey. James reads with wisdom and confidence, never second-guessing his delivery or interpretation of the work. A Scribner hardcover (Reviews, Mar. 17). (Nov.) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
Publishers Weekly, 2008-03-17 Kushner's colorful, character-driven debut succinctly captures the essence of life for a gilded circle of American expats in pre-Castro Cuba, chronicling a melange of philandering spouses, privileged carousers and their rebellious children. K.C. Stites and Everly Lederer are raised among the American industrial strongholds of the United Fruit Company sugar plantation and the Nicaro nickel mines. As adolescents, they are confronted by the complexities of local warfare and backstabbing politics, while their parents remain ignorant of the impending revolution. Meanwhile, in Havana, burlesque dancer Rachel K and her former SS officer companion become entangled in Castro's revolution. Toward the end of 1957, K.C.'s brother, Del, joins the rebels, and within a month the United Fruit Company's cane fields are ablaze. Throughout the following year, the attacks on U.S.-operated businesses intensify; political and personal loyalties are shuffled and betrayed; and the violence between the rebels and Batista's forces escalate. The action, while slowed at times by Kushner's tendency to revisit plot points from multiple points of view, culminates in a riveting drama. Given the recent Cuba headlines, Kushner's tale, passionately told and intensively researched, couldn't have come at a more opportune time. (July) Copyright 2008 Reed Business Information.
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