Publication Date: September 2, 2013
The author’s publisher, Capra Press, gave me a copy of this novel in exchange for my review.
The 1950s must have been a remarkable time in which to come-of-age. Customs and the idea of what was appropriate changed so dramatically and the human view of the world was expanding at light speed through the magic of television. The older generation clung to the past while the younger generation raced to the future. Tony is a child of the 1950s growing up in a changing Cuba, where old world customs and superstitions rule while time stops for no man and neither does progress. Mendoza’s Cuba is colorfully and nostalgically written. His affection for the country and time shine through the narrative. The country of Cuba is a character unto itself in A Cuban Summer and truly one of the best ones.
Tony comes from a wealthy family which affords him certain luxuries and freedoms that other people of the era may not enjoy, enhancing the experience for the reader and as the character heads for broadening our experience of a long gone Cuba. We’re able to leave Havana and follow him to Varadero Beach where his grandparents own a home. Tony’s family is restrictive in that they don’t talk about a politically changing Cuba as a discussion of politics is forbidden. Employees of the family help shape Tony’s view of the world and enable him to do things he would never have imagined being able to do and that ultimately shapes who he is as a character. To Mendoza’s credit, everything about the way Tony is written screams of an authentic 13-year-old character. He’s obsessed with the female form and self-pleasure, though he’s painfully shy around girls. He wants to live his life as rambunctiously and mischievously as he can, but he does have responsibilities of which he is painfully aware. Tony is a character written so well that he springs from the page. Mendoza’s skill has the reader stepping back in time with fully-realized characters in a well-described world.
A Cuban Summer was a fun read. Tony and the story are written with a respect to real human experience. Tony experiences laughter, love, sadness and the sweet pain of growing up. His journey through this story was one that we’ve heard a thousand times but with a truly special and unique spin.
Mendoza is a great writer and A Cuban Summer is a fabulous novel. If you like nostalgic works that speak with the spirit of a long-gone era.
If A Cuban Summer by Tony Mendoza sounds like a book for you, read an excerpt and buy on