Rachel Kushner's mother grew up in Cuba in the 1950s, in the United Fruit Company enclave where Telex from Cuba takes place. Calling on a rich trove of family letters, photos, meticulously kept journals, and historical research, Kushner sets free her brilliant imagination in this profoundly resonant story of a world that was paradise for a time and for a few.For half a century, Americans controlled Cuba's sugar and nickel operations---the country's two most lucrative exports. Between the United Fruit Company's 300,000-acre plantation and the nearby Nicaro nickel mines, Americans tended their own fiefdom in Cuba's Oriente Province. Everly Lederer and K. C. Stites come of age in this world. Each has a keen eye for the indulgences and betrayals of the grown-ups around them. Meanwhile, in faraway Havana, a cabaret dancer and a French agitator with a shameful past become enmeshed in the brewing political underground. When Fidel and Raúl Castro lead a revolt from the mountains just above the Americans' privileged enclave, torching sugarcane fields and recruiting rebels, K. C. and Everly begin to discover the complexities of class and race and the barely disguised brutality that keeps the colony humming. If their parents seem blissfully untouched by the forces of history, the children hear the whispers of what's to come, as Kushner deftly merges the rural and urban dramas.At the time, urgent news was conveyed by telex. Kushner's first novel is a tour de force, haunting and compelling, with the urgency of a telex from a forgotten time and place.More
We may be 50 years past the Cuban revolution, but Rachel Kushner's debut novel, Telex from Cuba, weaves the tale of the years preceding the event with such warmth and urgency, that this forgotten time seems the most present thing in the world. Kushner writes from what she knowsand good thing for us. A trained journalist and editor whose American mother grew up in imperialist Cuba of the 1950s, she combines meticulous historic research with a rich world of fictional characters that brings those details to life. It's a multi-perspective narrative, told mostly through the eyes of two children of the American ruling class, K.C. Stites and Everly Letterer, who see the inherent racism (though they don't yet know that's what it is) in their daily lives and the foreshadowing of a revolution that their parents cannotor will notacknowledge. Adding to the chorus are a burlesque dancer in Havana mysteriously connected to the revolution, a French arms dealer, and even the Castro brothers make a cameo.
The book truly comes to life as narrated by Lloyd James, a veteran of more than 400 audiobooks. James uses his even, soothing baritone to create a sense of momentum and suspenseno small feat in a novel written mostly in third person description, with bits of dialogue few and far between. Pauses, both subtle and pronounced, accomplish the significance. "He liked the diaphanous allure of fishnets. They were"pause"an enticement in the guise of a barrier," he reads during the first meeting of the arms dealer and the burlesque dancer. When there is dialogue, James alters his tone, making clear what the author intends that character to represent (strength, stupidity, tragedy). With many characters narrating and few ways to distinguish them through dialogue, Telex can be a bit challenging to follow, but for those who do, there's a real pay-off: The colorful imagery and masterful analogies Kushner sprinkles liberally throughout her tale recreate a historical time with a love and understanding, for both sides, rarely seen. Kelly Marages
"A riveting drama.... Kushner's tale, passionately told and intensively researched, couldn't have come at a more opportune time." (Publishers Weekly)
"Gorgeously written.... An imaginative work that brings Cuban-American history to life." (Kirkus Reviews)
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Nostalgic and great history
- Magin La Grave
Not as good as I'd hoped