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Multiple installments would have better served this tale and allowed Hellerman to showcase her stellar skills in a truer light (please see my review on Hellerman’s detective police procedural “Toxicity” or better yet, read/listen to the book. I think you will agree that that “Toxicity” is an outstanding demonstration of well-honed craft.).
“La Habana Perdida” / “Havana Lost” has the potential to be an epic tale. In fact, it brings to mind “The Godfather,” sans the strong audience appeal. “La Habana Perdida” / “Havana Lost” is chocked full of fascinating history, intriguing Italian family drama, and interesting cultures that span both locales and eras. Where the Godfather brings to life multiple generations of a family across three primary geographical backdrops— Sicily, New York City, and Long Island, “La Habana Perdida” / “Havana Lost” takes us to Cuba, Angola, and Chicago.
It takes time and sometimes a few installments for this kind of epic yarn to spin with great success because it takes time to provide readers/listeners expansive opportunities to know and understand the characters’ MOs, give adequate chase to the multiple decades and correlating history, and allow the most unpredictable surprises to make sense without coming off as cheap or cheating. In “La Habana Perdida” / “Havana Lost” knowledge of important character traits often show up late. For instance, a key player in the narrative has map-drawing skills and, in fact, really enjoys drawing maps, but readers/listeners do not learn about this until a pivotal point in the story when a supporting character needs the very map that is a driving force in the second half of the tale: The placement did not fit or flow or feel anything but forced as if I can suddenly play the piano (you don't know how far-fetched this is...ha!), a talent know one previously knew I had and I had never mentioned, just because someone wants to hear music. There are other points of concern, like when midstream a boyfriend, who was loved and adored, was suddenly not mentioned for a long, inexplicable spell, and then, just as suddenly, readers/listeners are haphazardly “told” that he had been dumped and that he had moved happily along (how? and when?). More installments could have helped story developments like this unfold with more grace and reader/listener satisfaction.
Too much force-feeding of poorly explained gaps and unlikely events gets weary. The narrative felt rushed and fell flat. It left me with the feeling of being “told” and not “shown.” As a result I remained outside of the story and didn’t care about the characters.
The author gifted me with the Spanish narrated version of the audiobook for an honest review. In order to give the most objective and fair assessment, and to give “translation” its due consideration, I independently purchased the English version in Kindle print/audio formats. I found no major discrepancies with the translation and, in fact, found the Spanish version more enjoyable. :-)
Narrators for both the Spanish and English versions did a terrific job.
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Una gran historia excelentemente narrada, en un marco histórico impresionante. Narra la historia de varías generaciones de una familia consumida por la tragedia y la ambición, que transcurre en la Cuba pre-revolución y la norteamericana actual, pasando por un periodo en Angola de finales de los 80 y principios de los 90, periodo que tendrá una significativa importancia en el desarrollo del resto de la historia.