Dancing to "Almendra"
Dancing to "Almendra"
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, Hardcover, 9780374102777, 272pp.
Publication Date: January 23, 2007
Havana, 1957. On the same day that the Mafia capo Umberto Anastasia is assassinated in a barber's chair in New York, a hippopotamus escapes from the Havana zoo and is shot and killed by its pursuers. Assigned to cover the zoo story, Joaquín Porrata, a young Cuban journalist, instead finds himself embroiled in the mysterious connections between the hippo's death and the mobster's when a secretive zookeeper whispers to him that he "knows too much." In exchange for a promise to introduce the keeper to his idol, the film star George Raft, now the host of the Capri Casino, Joaquín gets information that ensnares him in an ever-thickening plot of murder, mobsters, and, finally, love. The love story is, of course, another mystery. Told by Yolanda, a beautiful ex-circus performer now working for the famed cabaret San Souci, it interleaves through Joaquín's underworld investigations, eventually revealing a family secret deeper even than Havana's brilliantly evoked enigmas. In Dancing to "Almendra," Mayra Montero has created an ardent and thrilling tale of innocence lost, of Havana's secret world that is "the basis for the clamor of the city," and of the end of a violent era of fantastic characters and extravagant crimes. Based on the true history of a bewitching city and its denizens, Almendra is the latest "triumph" (Library Journal) from one of Latin America's most impassioned and intoxicating voices.
Mayra Montero is the author of a collection of short stories and of eight novels, including, most recently, Captain of the Sleepers (FSG, 2005). She was born in Cuba and lives in Puerto Rico, where she writes a weekly column in El Nuevo Dia newspaper.
"[Montero is a novelist] of outstanding importance . . . [Almendra is] a masterly work [that] leaves the reader breathless." --Luis de la Pena, La Razon (Spain) Praise for Captain of the Sleepers: "Montero probes [the] depths of inner ruin with the gelid calm and lucid exactitude that belies her characters' tortured passions and the story's tropical settings . . . [Her] sentences, planed to a soothing smoothness by Spanish translator extraordinaire Edith Grossman, slide up against each other, inexorably building to a truly tragic--and truly disturbing--ending. [Montero is] a worthy peer for the likes of Mario Vargas Llosa." --Oscar Villalon, San Francisco Chronicle