3 out of 4 stars
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Revolution is a fictionalized version of events just before and after the revolution that brought Fidel Castro and his brother Raul into power in Cuba. The author, Al Romero, used his own family’s history as a source from which to pull facts and events. In reading this story, I learned things that I never learned in any of my history classes. The author spins a beautiful fictionalized tale including not only stories from his family narrative, but also from historical events of the day.
Opening in the late 1950s, the book shows the Machado family enjoying a comfortable life in middle-class Cuba. An extended family, they are loving and happy, gathering for celebrations like Christmas and birthdays. Well, most of them are. One of the brothers is living in the jungle with Fidel Castro and other revolutionaries who are planning to oust the current dictator, President Fulgencio Batista. Batista’s rule has been very harsh, and rumbles of revolution echo throughout the island nation. In this story, some Machado family friends are part of student-led underground revolutionary groups, and family members waver over decisions about joining the revolution or remaining silent. After the coup, the book takes the reader through the frightening and bloody events in the fallout from Castro’s takeover. The lives of Cubans go into turmoil as communist ideals are put into place and those who disagree with the government are imprisoned or assassinated. Romero paints startling accounts of how innocent people lost everything they had.
From my first glance at the book, I loved the striking cover, and I was captured by the subtitle: How the Castros Lied, Cheated, and Murdered Their Way Into Power. I was excited to read a book that promised such intrigue and action. Unfortunately, this action doesn’t begin until half-way through the book. Agreed, the first half of the book is interesting, presenting the daily lives of families in Cuban cities and of Castro and his rebels in the jungle. Romero shows readers how much middle-class 1950s Cuba was like middle-class America. In this first half, we are able to connect with the characters and understand the importance of certain cultural standards such as Carnival and professional baseball. However, the reading was often tedious. The prose descriptions were a little overdone, and the dialogue was clumsy at times. I think the author could have conveyed what he needed in a much shorter section. The subtitle had me looking forward to some lying and cheating Castros, and it took me a while to get to them.
As mentioned above, the Machado family’s connection with Castro, the revolution, and the counterrevolution are all loosely based on the experiences of the author’s family. The author did a good job creating several rounded characters and many others with consistent character traits. Revolution led me to explore Cuba’s history on my own, and I found numerous accounts that were portrayed in the book. I was fascinated to learn so much about this island just ninety miles south of the tip of Florida.
The book is well-edited, with only a handful of errors which are mostly related to comma use. I will not be taking away a star for editing because errors were so few and were not distracting. However, I am taking away a star because the plot drags, rating this book 3 out of 4 stars. If you are looking for a fast-paced adventure story, this book is not for you. However, anyone interested in knowing more about Cuba’s culture and history should absolutely pick up this book. Even though I had to push through the first half, I learned a great deal about this beautiful country and its resilient people. Prospective readers should know that there are some occurrences of adult language and violence, and there are a few sexual situations in the book.
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