Author: R. Ira Harris

Publisher: Bridge Works Publishing

ISBN: 978-0-9816175-5-8

We’ve been duped—we’ve all been duped, I tell you!” says Harris’ character, Maria Guerra, summarizing her frustration with Castro’s revolution to her friend and lover Father Pedro Villanueva. These protagonists sink deep into intrigue as they plan to aid the guerrilla and topple Batista. They soon learn that revolutions often only exchange one set of despots for another, especially in Latin America.

The Castro brothers’ duplicity and the bloodlust of the folk hero Che Guevara remind us of modern day Latin American regimes where constitutions are rewritten by fiat and organized opposition to the people in power is not allowed and often leads to torture or death. The author also portrays the Batista regime’s similar brutality and the ineptness and apathetic attitude of the Church, reminding us of things to come in Argentina and Chile. There are also tragic and comic moments like when Ed Sullivan interviews Fidel Castro. (I saw that interview—we were also duped into thinking that Castro had finally brought democracy to the troubled island.)

The above is background. The novel is about Pedro Villanueva. Harris explores the thoughts and emotions of this conflicted and tragic character, who becomes a reluctant hero of the revolution and lives to regret it. Conflicted priests are common in literature. In one of my novels, I created such a protagonist. They make perfect characters—torn between their love of God and their love for a woman and allowing the author to plumb the depths of human emotions.

Although they might not be a conscious choice, I liked the selection of names. Maria Guerra reminds us that Maria is the mother of the Church while Guerra is Spanish for war. Pedro was the rock upon which the Church was built, but Villanueva is a new town, symbolizing the hope for a different future. So much of the novel is about the conflict between that opium of the masses, religion, which often teaches acceptance of one’s lot in life, and the revolutionary desire for quick and progressive social change, often throwing out the good with the bad and adding to the latter. This is the story of both the Soviet Union and Cuba. It is their continuing story even in the 21st century.

The author builds from sailing at a yacht club to a desperate flight from tyranny in a wild tropical storm as the same yacht tries to cross the ninety miles between Cuba and Florida. My only complaint is the abrupt ending, comprised of a startling climax and no denouement. Although the writing style is simple and straightforward, the author has created a deep and torturous historical novel. Some time ago, I reviewed Holzman’s Malena, a book about Argentina’s Dirty War. Harris’ book is equally valuable as an aid to our understanding of Latin America and its struggles. It’s also just a darn good story.

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