A vivid and funny first novel about three generations of a Cuban family divided by conflicting loyalties over the Cuban revolution, set in the world of Havana in the 1970s and '80s and in an emigre neighborhood of Brooklyn. It is a story of immense charm about women and politics, women and witchcraft, women and their men.
The problem for me was that the story didn't seem complete--I feel like we just barely skimmed the surface with these characters, sometimes going a little (or a lot) deeper, but only for a moment. The book is roughly 250 pages long, but for me, it wasn't enough to cover the story of four women from the 1930s to the 1980s, plus a handful of other relatives that get their own POV sections along the way. As it is, we get a lot of the characters' present-day emotions, but I would have loved to see more scenes actually played out rather than alluded to. There are gaps in the story between the years and the POV shifts, and I personally would have liked to see more of them filled in.
The other thing that I found a little frustrating with this book is that some of the metaphors and references the characters make didn't seem to make sense, even after I stopped to think about them and figure it out. There are some parts where characters suddenly realize something about the moon, etc., and how it relates to their present situation, but the reason for this is not clear at all to me. Sometimes this happens in fiction and I just go with it, but in this book, for some reason, it served to jolt me out of the narrative and ended up interrupting the flow.
With that said, there are many scenes that are very powerful and haunting, particularly in Celia's story. Cristina Garcia lets certain parts of the characters' pasts emerge slowly and reveals them at precisely the right time, which I love in a book.
I found Dreaming in Cuban to be a cumbersome effort to read. Almost from the start I was beginning to lose track of the characters and I was beginning to think that I would need a score card to keep track of who was who. In this novel the author did create interesting scenes that centers around the Cuban family, and culture but there were so many loose ends when I finished reading the book that the overall story just didn't connect with me. It's not a terrible read, maybe just an entertaining story.
The novel’s central themes include family relationships, exile, the divisiveness of politics, and memory. Cuban history and culture are important in the novel, including important historical events and the elements of Santería that appear throughout the novel.
I enjoyed this novel because for me specifically, growing up Cuban, there were many things that were familiar in the telling of this story. What I didn't like about the book (and what I don't like about books that do this) is the flip flopping back and forth between both Characters and Time. I have difficulty reading stories like that.
That being said, this book is a worthy read.