Synopses & Reviews
This choppy, patience-testing novel tells a highly personalized account of Cuban economic hardship in the early 1990s from the perspective of a poor, drug-addled young woman known only as Z, who lives a hardscrabble existence in a rough Havana neighborhood that serves as a collecting point for the economy's social backwash. As a victim in the chain-reaction catastrophe caused by the fall of the Soviet Union, Z works when she can, but largely gets by through theft, prostitution, and the grudging helping hands of others. Her highly chaotic life has masochistic overtones, particularly in her choice of an abusive thug boyfriend. While Portela starkly portrays a world of conquerors and victims at every level of society, an indifferent government, and moments of brief, yet tender empathy among fellow sufferers, the story lacks a focused plot or a clear narrative line. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright PWyxz LLC)
One Hundred Bottles, with its intersecting characters and unresolved whodunits, can be read as a murder mystery. But it's really a survivor's story. In a voice that blends gossip, storytelling, and literature, Z the vivacious heroine of Portela's award-winning novel relates her rum-soaked encounters with the lesbian underground, the characters carving up her home, and the terrifying-but-irresistible Moises. As entertaining as any detective drama, One Hundred Bottles is ultimately made real by very rough love, intense friendship, and something small that decides to live.