Before reading Find Me in Havana, I had never heard of Estelita Rodriguez. Author Serena Burdick had a chance meeting with Nina Rodriquez and the story of her mother Estelita intrigued her. Years later she revisited the incredible and mostly unknown story and wrote this fictionalized version.
The book is told in two voices. Mother Estelita writing to daughter Nina and Nina writing to her mother, who we know from the start, died in 1966 at age 37. Estelita’s singing talent as a child in Cuba led her to the U.S. and a career in the movies. By eighteen, she became a mother and chose to leave her husband who wanted her to give up her career. Estelita’s life was filled with Hollywood glitz and a continued stream of men. Nina was sent away to school and had a difficult childhood. The book tells of incredible incidents that took place in Mexico and back in Cuba where they find themselves in the middle of the Cuban Revolution.
This is a touching story which we know ends up in tragedy. But it was interesting to learn about Estelita Rodriguez. I wish the book told a bit more of Estelita’s experiences in making Rio Bravo and the other movies she was in but this is essentially a book about a daughter coming to terms with her mother’s life and her own. And a tale of a talented woman who was dominated by the men in her life. A worthwhile read.
Many thanks to Edelweiss, Park Row / HarperCollins and the author for the opportunity to read Find Me in Havana in advance of its January 12, 2020 publication.
Rated 4 out of 5 stars.
Publication Date: January 12, 2020.
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