Adventures in Reading

Fiction: A Handbook to Luck by Cristina García

“But there are no kindly gods who will return to us

What we have lost, only blind chance…”

— Luis Cernuda

I stumbled across Las Comadres book club list for the year and after being quite intrigued by the titles I picked up a copy of A Handbook to Luck, the June selection, by Christina García. I was even more pleased when I arrived home and realized that García was another author I had meant to read for quite some time and I have another of her books already dreaming on the shelf.

“In the late 60s, three teenagers from around the globe are making their way in the world…” and these kid’s lives overlap and intertwine emotionally and intellectually until various points of physical interaction are achieved. The book is broken up into four narrations though the book jacket only advertises three. But what I found most amazing about ía’s book is that I was equally interested and involved with all of the characters. Too often in both literature and movies, narrations that move between characters seldom provide equal intrigue amongst all of the characters.

The reader observes these characters with their childhoods, first sexual experiences, coming of age, as well as the big world of “life.” García also has a talent of moving her characters through time. Most obviously this is done through the periodic “year breaks” throughout the book, but she also intertwines more subtle chronological influence such as a newspapers reporting of the progression of Cuba’s development of communism under Castro.

Punctuating these stories of love, family, and struggle are also interesting political expressions of oppression and revolution. I believe García was born in Cuba and raised in the U.S.A., but I’m not confident enough saying the book reveals any of her personal political convictions. While one of the stories follows a Cuban family that escaped Castro’s revolution and that remains critical of the communist leader, it’s juxtaposed with the family’s struggle of survival in the U.S.A. and the limitations they have as immigrants. The other two stories reflect equal political expressions as one of the characters is raised and later returns to Tehran and the third character is from a Latin American country under assumed military rule.

A Handbook to Luck is a well-written and emotional encounter of immigrants leaving but ultimately returning, if only emotionally, to their homes.

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