In the late 60s, three teenagers from around the globe are making their way in the world: Enrique Florit, from Cuba, living in southern California with his flamboyant magician father; Marta Claros, getting by in the slums of San Salvador; Leila Rezvani, a well-to-do surgeon's daughter in Tehran. We follow them through the years, surviving war, disillusionment, and love, as their lives and paths intersect. With its cast of vividly drawn characters, its graceful movement through time, and the psychological shifts between childhood and adulthood, A Handbook to Luck is a beautiful, elegiac, and deeply emotional novel by beloved storyteller Cristina García. From the Trade Paperback edition.
Garc�a's solid triptych opens in 1968, where Enrique Florit is a nine-year-old struggling to retain memories of his mother, who died in a bizarre accident in Cuba during one of his father Fernando's magic acts. Father and son relocate to Las Vegas, where Enrique develops a fascination with gambling. The novel then shifts to Marta Claros, a young girl attempting to eke out a living for her family in San Salvador, El Salvador, by selling used clothing. Marta's younger brother, Evaristo, escapes from their violent stepfather and takes up residence in a coral tree, only to witness brutal acts committed by soldiers at night. Marta, meanwhile, devises a plan to immigrate to the U.S., hoping to send for Evaristo later. In yet another part of the world, Leila Rezvani grows up amid luxurious yet isolated surroundings in Tehran, where her mother flirts with the horticulturist, her father is absorbed by his work, and her brother is dying. Enrique emerges as the central figure as years pass, first entangling with Leila, whom he meets in a casino, and later with Marta, with whom he has a platonic relationship. Garc�a (Dreaming in Cuban) lovingly portrays her characters grappling with misfortune and luck in unfamiliar surroundings. (Apr.)
Copyright (c) Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc.
There are no customer reviews available at this time. Would you like to write a review?
July 07, 2008
Number of Print Pages*
Adobe DRM EPUB
* Number of eBook pages may differ. Click here for more information.
Excerpt from A Handbook to Luck by Penney Peirce
Enrique Florit climbed the stairs to the roof of his apartment building, which was eye level with the top of the street's jacaranda trees. It had rained that afternoon and dark puddles stained the cement and the peeling tar paper. When Enrique opened the doors of the wire-mesh cages, the doves fluttered to his shoulders and outstretched arms. Five months ago, he and his father had bought the doves and dyed their feathers a rainbow of pastels. Now Enrique poured their daily seed, freshened their water, listened to the low blue murmurings in their throats.
His father had introduced the doves into his act on New Year's Eve. He performed every other weekend at a cocktail lounge in Marina del Rey and needed the doves to compete with the top-billed magician's unicycle-riding parrot. Papi tried to upstage the parrot by having his doves ride a battery-operated motorcycle across a tiny tightrope. Enrique attended the New Year's Eve show. The doves performed unpredictably, sometimes riding on cue, sometimes cooing indifferently from the rim of his father's top hat. A couple flew out of the room altogether.
Yet each time Papi strode across the stage in his tuxedo and plum-colored velvet cape, Enrique's heart rose an inch in his chest. He overheard a woman with teased-up hair say to her table companions: Ooooh, he looks just like that Ricky Ricardo! In California, nobody heard much about Cuba except for Ricky Ricardo, the hijackings to Havana, and, of course, El Comandante himself.
Enrique coaxed the doves back into their cages one by one. The sunset reddened the hovering dust. A propeller plane took off from the airport to the south. It puttered high over the ocean before turning toward land. During their first months in Los Angeles, Papi had kept a suitcase packed in case they needed to return to Cuba in a hurry. He listened to the Spanish-language radio stations and played boleros every night before bed. He read El Diario for any news of El Comandante's fall and kept their clocks three hours ahead, on Havana time. After a while they grew accustomed to waiting.
Their apartment on Seventeenth Street looked out over an alley dominated by an unruly bougainvillea. They were only a mile from the beach, and the ocean air mildewed their walls and linoleum floors. Enrique liked to go to the Santa Monica pier on his skateboard and watch the Ferris wheel and the Mexicans with their fishing rods and empty, hopeful buckets. Papi slept in their one bedroom and Enrique curled up on the living room couch at night. Mam�'s coral rosary hung on a nail over the television, next to a circus poster from Varadero. In the poster, an elephant with a jeweled headdress stood on its hind legs warily eyeing the ringmaster. An orange tiger roared in the background.
Enrique shared the bedroom's cramped closet with his father. Papi's frayed tuxedos were hung up neatly, massive and forlorn looking when emptied of his ample flesh. His shoes looked equally despondent, parked in a double row by Enrique's extra pair of sneakers. Only the white ruffled shirts, starched and at attention, gave off an optimistic air.
Once Papi had been famous throughout the Caribbean. He'd performed regularly in the Dominican Republic and Panama and as far south as coastal Colombia. El Mago Gallego. That was his stage name then. Of course, this was long before Enrique's mother died, long before the Cuban Revolution soured, long before they left their house in C�rdenas with its marble floors and its ceiling-to-floor shutters and the speckled goose named Pato who guarded their yard.
When Mam� was still alive, Enrique, in embroidered Chinese pajamas and pretending to water a slowly growing sunflower, sometimes joined his parents on stage. For a year after she died, Enrique barely spoke. He stayed in his T�a Adela's bedroom, where the fierce light shone through the curtains and the bedspread was embroidered with hummingbirds. Outside her window, bunches of bananas ripened before his eyes.
His aunt put a little bell by his bed so that Enrique could summon her whenever he wanted. She brought him horchata and miniature cakes with pineapple jam. She fussed over him, too, layering on extra sweaters and a woolen scarf to keep him warm. T�a Adela believed that everything wrong with the body could be treated with heat. In the mornings Enrique woke up breathless and sputtering, convinced that he was drowning. His aunt took him to see Dr. Ignacio Sebrango, a pulmonary specialist with carbuncled arms, who said that Enrique's condition was psychological and had nothing to do with the excellent health of his lungs.
Enrique's biggest fear was that he might forget his mother altogether. She'd died when he was six and that was three whole years ago. He replayed memories of her over and over again until they seemed more like an old movie than anything real. Everyone had told him that he was the spitting image of Mam�. They both had small frames and fine black hair and skin the color of cinnamon. Only his eyes, a hazel bordering on blue, were like his father's.