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Beautiful Maria of My Soul: Or the True Story of Maria Garcia y Cifuentes, the Lady Behind a Famous Songby Oscar Hijuelos
"When Oscar Hijuelos' landmark novel The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, about two musician brothers — Cesar and Nestor Castillo who move from Cuba to New York — came out in 1990, it amazed many and raised the hackles of not a few. (But then, which ambitious work that aims to break new ground doesn't?) Readers who loved Mambo Kings applauded Hijuelos' deft and compassionate characterizations — especially that of Cesar Castillo — and the novel's lush and unconventional narrative style that echoes the music at the heart of the book. Critics complained that Cesar with his machismo was almost a stereotype, that the overly-detailed scenes of his sexual exploits detracted from the novel, and that the style was rambling and formless. However, fans of the book outnumbered the detractors, and Mambo Kings went on to win a Pulitzer.
Synopses & Reviews
The Pulitzer Prize-winning The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love is a contemporary American classic, a novel that still captures the imagination twenty years after its first publication. And now, in Beautiful Maria of My Soul, Oscar Hijuelos returns to the story, but tells it from the point of view of its beloved heroine, Maria.
She’s the great Cuban beauty, the woman who stole musician Nestor Castillo’s heart and broke it, inspiring him to write the Mambo Kings’ biggest hit, “Beautiful Maria of My Soul.” Here, in Hijuelos’s dazzling new stand-alone novel, she finally takes the spotlight.
Now in her early sixties and living in Miami with her pediatrician daughter, Teresa, Beautiful Maria still turns heads. Having left Cuba decades before, she has gone on with her life, but has never forgotten Nestor, and as she thinks back to her days — and nights — in Havana, an entirely new perspective on the Mambo Kings story unfolds. Beautiful Maria of My Soul is a stunning feat of reimagination, another contemporary classic from an extraordinarily talented writer.
"In a sequel of sorts to The Mambo King Play Songs of Love, Hijuelos examines the life of the muse of that novel as she moves from childhood to the fast lane in mid-20th century Cuba. Mara enchants whether she's dancing in clubs, appearing in advertisements, or walking the sweltering streets of Havana. Her story is one of fierce love, luscious sex, and otherworldly beauty, but also of heartbreak and hardness, as she carries painful memories of the death of her sister and her dear mother. The two main men in her life are Ignacio, a nefarious, strong-willed businessman who provides poor Mara with extravagant clothes and an apartment, and Nestor, a poor musician whom she loves passionately. Less prominent but still present is Mara's daughter, Teresa, and her growing up in America. Hijuelos's Havana is as much a full-fleshed character as Mara as it endures the rise of Castro and the mass exodus of Cubans to Miami in the 1960s. An intelligent and playful ending caps off a vivid story that should delight readers of The Mambo Kings and enthrall those new to Hijuelos's imaginative and florid voice. (June)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
“I fell instantly in love with the glorious soul of Beautiful Maria of My Soul. Hijuelos has created and brought to life two beloved characters, a heart-stealing heroine and Havana during an epoch of changing fate.” Amy Tan, bestselling author of The Joy Luck Club and The Kitchen God’s Wife
“Beautiful Maria is the Queen of the Mambo Kings! Oscar Hijuelos brings this magnificent character to life in this lyrical novel.” Gay Talese, author of A Writer’s Life
The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love is a Pulitzer Prize-winning contemporary American classic. Now, in his new novel, Hijuelos returns to this indelible story, to tell it from the point of view of its beloved heroine, Maria.
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