True to the title, this book is definitely Cuban and dreamy. The story follows three generations of Cuban women, jumping forward and backward in time, hopping back and forth between Cuba and New York, and switching between a variety of narrative styles (i.e. third person, first person, and epistolary). This variety in time, location, style and person contributes to the dreamy ambiance, but for me it was a bit nightmarish.
The human and family relationships in this story all seem afflicted with various strains caused by disease, mental illness, obsession, repression, hysteria ... etc. There's just too much dysfunctional family behavior, poor life choices and emotional unhappiness in this book for me. There's not a single romantic relationship in this book that is healthy and supportive.
All through the book I kept telling myself that if it doesn't have a coherent ending that wraps things up in a reasonable manner I'm going to give it a rating of one star. Well as it turns out that it did have a pretty good ending, so I'm giving it two stars. Actually, the last 20% of the book deserves five stars, but with the other 80% at one star the book averages out at two stars.
I experienced this book as an example of creative/experimental/MFA writing that went overboard to no purpose other than to show off writing skills and confuse the reader. It's the sort of book that gets assigned to modern literature classes in order to torment the students.
However, upon finishing this book I see the completed story as a sad tragedy. In the end a grandchild who has grown up in New York visits her grandmother for the first time in twenty years (she was a baby when she left). Then together with her mother they connive to arrange for another grandchild who has grown up in Cuba to leave the country for the USA. Consequently, the grandmother is left alone in Cuba with no remaining children or grandchildren. Sad!
It's a story of dysfunctional relationships made worse by the political separations caused by the isolation of Communist Cuba from the USA. There are elements of Santería
that appear throughout the novel.
The following quotation has special poignancy for me:
"Women who outlive their daughters are orphans, ... Only their granddaughters can save them, guard their knowledge like the first fire."
The following is a Wikipedia article about this book:
I found the Wikipedia article helpful in keeping characters straight.
An example of another book about three generations of women is A Yellow Raft in Blue Water
by Michael Doris. In that book there is an "ah ha!" ending that provides an explanation of how and why craziness got passed from generation to generation.