Official Review: Citizen Cárdenas by Steve Cole

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Official Review: Citizen Cárdenas by Steve Cole

Post by Lest92 »

[Following is an official review of "Citizen Cárdenas" by Steve Cole.]
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4 out of 4 stars
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Steve Cole’s literary novel, Citizen Cárdenas, presents the story of a homeless Cuban immigrant, Jesus “Gato” Cárdenas surviving early 2000’s Chicago with the help of his chosen “Mami” and “Dadi”, Alexia and George Demas.

In the novel, Gato is described as “down, but never out,” and we meet him during a particularly luckless episode: Social Security wrongly assumes he died and would withhold his benefits cheque and back pay until he proves he is alive and well, which he can’t do without an identity document. With no documentation to rectify the mistake, he turns to George and Alexia for help. Since he lives in the park in their neighbourhood, Gato is familiar to them, and George decides to launch a one-man crusade against the bureaucracy on Gato’s behalf. George’s decision to help leads to tentative charity from the Demas household; they let Gato board with them a while, and he becomes more to them than just another vagrant in their neighbourhood. They start considering him a friend, though George, still curious, and growing suspicious as he tries disentangling all the red tape, wonders if he could solve the mystery of Jesus Cárdenas’s identity.

What hooked me right away is the novel’s substance and immediate depth. Citizen Cárdenas is a layered story; the characters’ motivations are conflicted, especially those of George and Alexia Demas. I sensed that Gato’s plight isn’t the only reason they wanted to help him back to his feet. Guilt seems to influence their compassion to a considerable degree. Why notice Gato now, after they’ve been aware of his difficulties for fifteen years? And what do we as readers do when asked to empathise with someone like Gato? Despite encountering these questions as I read the book, I don’t see Citizen Cárdenas as a didactic story. Despite his self-inflicted ill-health and intermittent homelessness, Gato is a charmer with a raffish dignity all his own.

The story alternates between the first-person perspectives of Gato, George and Alexia, as well as some of Gato’s associates. His friend Mamerto the poet’s viewpoints are particularly eloquent. Each character has a distinctive voice and offers a different facet of the story as it continues through time. Steve Cole is a careful observer of human nature and interaction, and he portrays his characters and their dialogue with a clear writing style. Citizen Cárdenas is professionally edited; I didn’t see any errors while reading the book.

Since I enjoyed this novel and saw nothing to fault, I rate it 4 out of 4 stars and recommend it to readers whose interest lies in literary novels and character-driven stories.

Citizen Cárdenas
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Post by kandscreeley »

Well that would be horrible. SS claiming you died, and you have to prove you're alive to get the benefits. Interesting start to a novel. Thanks for the great review.
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Post by prettysmart »

I will definitely add this to my book collection due to its First person narrative writing style and its classical theme. Satisfying review!

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Post by Sahani Nimandra »

Yish! Even now the pain of people is visible. This book reminds us about that dystopian past. Looking forward for a good read! Thank you for sharing!
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Post by Ida123 »

Rreally lovely and meaninful review, it makes this book a mus read.
Thank you dear for the review!

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Post by NL Hartje »

Yeesh, Chicago is rough enough let alone being homeless AND having the government brain fart. Thanks for the review!
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Post by Kat Berg »

There seem to be lots of heavy topic books lately. I appreciate them, and I particularly like the question your review (and the book) poses to the reader: What are we going to do when we see suffering around us? It is a hard question to answer, and it seems that the author handles that question with honesty and respect.

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Post by bb587 »

A nice coupe helps a homeless man, who has mistakenly been declared dead, and who doesn't have ID to help prove otherwise. Sounds heartwarming.

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Post by Ferdinand_otieno »

This is an interesting historical fiction novel with a unique protagonist. I am a huge fan of the genre but I rated the book 3 out of 4 stars since I felt that the onlinebookclub review oversold the book a bit. Congrats on being the BOTD.

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Post by gali »

A book about the life of a homeless Cuban refugee in Chicago sounds intense. That the book is a layered story and each character has a distinctive voice is to its credit. The alternation between perspectives makes it more relatable. It isn't really my cup of tea, but I am glad you enjoyed it. Thank you for the review!
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Post by Kendra M Parker »

What an interesting look at social issues and the impact of bureaucracy on immigrants. It sounds like a great way to explore some significant social concerns.

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Post by kh74033 »

What an interesting concept! And the amount of red tape that one would encounter when the government claims you are dead would probably be a jungle. I think it sounds like a very good story: The fact that Gato has many trials and tribulations that are self-inflicted even though the reader maintains good feeling for him are proof of a great story.

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Post by Kibetious »

Wow, thanks for the review.For me, the story sounds just great. It is one of my favorite types and would definitely love to hear more about what happened and whether Gato finally was able to prove his identity.
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Post by dtb »

Thanks for a great review. I am glad he was able to find help. We all need a little help sometimes.

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Post by jaliper »

It sounds great, Thanks for sharing your review. I think it sounds so emotional and powerful that I can overlook the errors. Thanks for the warning about them.

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