Picks and Pans Review: The Exile
Miami lies about 150 miles north of Havana, but for many of South Florida's Cuban exiles, the distance is unbridgeable. At least that's the contention of New York City-based freelance journalist David Rieff (Going to Miami) in the third of his thought-provoking chronicles of cities and citizens in flux.
Rieff approaches the emotionally charged issue of el exilio by telling the story of one Cuban-American family. Having departed from their homeland as teens, architect Raul Rodriguez and his wife, Ninon, a teacher, are, like so many of their compadres, torn between golden memories of the Havana they left and the new life they have made in Miami for themselves and their thoroughly Americanized son, Rully.
But instead of just dreaming about their lost Eden, the Rodriguezes take several journeys (two of them with the author) back home. There they painfully recognize the widening chasm between the two communities; in some respects the closest thing to the Havana of their dreams now lies on this side of the Florida Strait.
When Rieff strays from the story of one family's struggle and gets bogged down in political observations, his narrative suffers. Still, this is a perceptive look at a provocative topic. (Simon & Schuster, $21)