A Cuban Summer Review

by Capra Press on October 11, 2013

This just in from the Midwest Book Review:

A Cuban Summer
Tony Mendoza
Capra Press
978-1592661022      $15.00

A Cuban Summer’s dedication is to the “Cuba before Fidel that I remember with affection, a country that overflowed with energy, laughter, and many imperfections.” It’s this dedication that sets the stage for a novel replete with Cuban culture, ideals, and changes; all set against the backdrop of 1954 where Tony de la Torre comes of age during one memorable summer.

Tony is no ordinary lad: his family is wealthy and he’s been raised by servants with the trappings of inherited luxury. So when Tony’s coming of age coincides with the many social and political changes affecting Cuba’s place in the world, the forces affecting both Tony and pre-Castro Cuba are brought to the foreground in a novel replete with social and sexual tension and growth.

One wouldn’t expect to have a humorous overtone running through a story which embraces so many personal and political changes, but in fact A Cuban Summer uses such humor as a binding force to capture the spirit and lively peoples of the land, and this is one of the features that makes this novel so endearing.

Another notable feature: by choosing an adolescent boy’s viewpoint, the changes brought about by social and personal forces come neatly together in a perspective that can be readily understood by Cubans as well as those with little prior familiarity with the country’s peoples and politics.

From family and religious roles to the increasing intrusion of politics into personal and public affairs, A Cuban Summer  neatly captures the atmosphere of a very Catholic, very well- defined society which stands on the brink of revolutionary changes.

Tony Mendoza’s storytelling ability is only equaled by his ability to capture a teen’s evolving emotions: “The young woman who ran that coffee machine was as attractive as a movie star, in Tony’s opinion. He often went to the coffee stand after school and asked her for a cortadito, a small cup of espresso. What he especially liked about her was how she always referred to her clients as mi amor, or mi vida, my life. She seemed to be on intimate terms with everyone. When Tony ordered his cortadito she often said: como estás, mi amorcito? How are you, my little love? It was worth getting a cup of coffee at that stand just to hear her say that.”

Tony’s blossoming feelings for young Carmen (and other girls) and his assessments of how to enter into a “proper Cuban courtship”, his evolving awareness of philosophy and ecological and world relationships, and his eventual realization that Cuba lives in his soul as much as he spends time on its soil makes for a blossoming saga of a summer during which everything – even his relationship with Cuba – will change.

In the end you have a bittersweet, gentle novel steeped in old-world Cuban culture and sentiments that provides readers with a lovely snapshot of old world values in flux. When his changing, evolving and terrific summer is over, Tony will find himself in a new place: one in which his own presence in the old world has become a memory of the past.

D. Donovan, eBook Reviewer, MBR