by José Ramón Torres

"As the door clangs shut behind him with a rusty screech, Ángel remains motionless, sinking into darkness and a humid stench."

The history of Communist Cuba will always be compared to that of Capitalist America's, because of their conflicting ideologies and geographical proximity to one another. Set during the first months of 1980, this book follows the hopes, dreams, and fears of a family torn by the harsh conditions in their native Cuba and their yearning for a new life in America. Ángel, the father, is one of the thousands of people who crams into the Peruvian embassy looking for asylum in another land to get out, but he has his misgivings about what actually awaits him abroad and returns home. His children, on the other hand, are more optimistic about leaving. Emilia, his daughter, pays for passage on a yacht to Miami with her husband, while his son Eduardo, currently serving in the military, desires leaving but is duty-bound and compelled by a beautiful student to linger.

The sharp contrast between not only the United States and Cuba is a prevailing theme of this story, but it also goes another layer deeper. The expectations of what America can offer Cuban refugees versus what conditions in the crowded cities will actually provide them are a serious concern for Ángel. Even as he is put in prison for involvement in illegal gambling and turns increasingly to drugs and alcohol, he has his misgivings about being separated from what family remains in Cuba, while others are desperate to leave by any means. Packed with drama, paranoia, and suspense, the author strongly develops compelling characters who just as easily serve as allegories for the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have lived the reality of this tale. A blend of well-crafted fiction and social history, this book thrives on the strength of its characters and the reality of its setting.

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