Picks and Pans Review: Waiting for Snow in Havana

updated 03/10/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 03/10/2003 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Carlos Eire

The privileged son of a Havana judge, Carlos Eire was 8 years old in 1959 when Castro marched into the city. This rich, engrossing memoir, mainly of Eire's childhood before he escaped to Miami at age 11, has the magic realism of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. A rich man's swimming pool is turned into a shark tank; the author's father claims to be the reincarnation of Louis XVI of France; after Castro's revolution poor people move into empty cages of a former private zoo. How much of this is strictly true and how much fancy isn't clear.

The spell is broken in the sections following Eire's struggles in the United States: He never saw his father again. But throughout, Eire's story is illuminated by his belief in redemption and the transforming power of art. (Free Press, $25)

BOTTOM LINE: Magical memory tour

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