Thursday, July 10, 2014

Santa Rita Stories by Andrew J. Rodriguez


Welcome to Santa Rita, a Cuban fishing town populated by a colorful cast of saints and sinners, con men and fishermen, athletes and hunchbacks, politicians and priests...where everyone eventually knows everyone else’s business and the collective memory reaches backward for generations. To help him unravel the deeply rooted traditions and gossip of this tropical melting pot, fifteen-year-old Carlos turns often to his friend Pedro, a foul-smelling, cigar-chomping vagrant who lives on the docks and is affectionately known as el Viejo—the Old Man. In the course of ten linked stories, Andy Rodriguez brings to vivid life the rhythms of daily life in mid-1950’s Cuba, and the transition from Carlos’s carefree, nurturing childhood to his awakening to the responsibilities—and possibilities—of young manhood. Carlos resists authority; but he can’t resist Pedro’s wisdom as the Old Man dispenses advice about everything from the proper method of romantic kissing, to how to avoid judging a book by its cover—dramatized by a tale of Ernest Hemingway and an encounter with a Nazi spy. By the final story, just as Carlos longs to escape the restrictions of a small town and spread his wings in the big city of Havana, we also long, right along with him, to linger forever in the magical, love-filled world of Santa Rita. (taken from the back of the book)

I'll admit, looking at the front cover, this isn't a book I'd pick up.  The description sounds alright though.  It sounds like the sort of book you'd sit back and read when you've run out of all the stuff you really are anxious to read, right?

Sometimes I'm a poor judge.  I thought for sure this book would just be an alright read, possibly even boring.  That wasn't the case at all.

The characters are not only realistic, but colorful as well.  Not only that, they portray the lost art of humanity.  They have rigid morals and a love for beauty and art.  Though there are some who are greed-infested and worthless, the others in the community don't think highly of them and you can tell by their reactions alone that that is neither the norm nor acceptable behavior.  Though Pedro was my favorite character,all of them had these wonderful little quirks that made you want to hold them tightly. Just being a part of their way of life made me feel like a better person.  It's a wholesome and loving environment that you just want to be around.  

You'll find drama and action and romance, but you'll find the real truth to life in here.  It's like a community of wizened individuals that hold all the secrets and keys to happiness, but dispersed among themselves and you have to pay close attention to glean the information from them.  

Andrew, I give you my most sincere apology.  This is not the book you want to hold back until you've read everything else you're anxious to read.  This is the book you want to curl yourself up in when you need to understand the world, humanity.  It's the book you want to grab when you want to feel a sense of home and joy.  It's the book you want to grab when you're feeling disconnected from yourself and just want to feel whole again.

I've read lots of books by self-proclaimed 'people watchers', but I have to admit I've never read one with this much soul before.  

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