Santiago’s tale is set in Cuba from its waning days of glitter and influence overseen by Batista and unsavory characters such as the brilliant Mafioso boss, Meyer Lansky, to the advent of revolution and Castro’s Havana. The story ostensibly follows Estalita de la Cruz as she journeys from traveling show performances with her father to stardom in Havana.
More precisely, however, the tale has several protagonists, most of whom move from abject poverty to various levels of success or failure in the dichotomous world of pre-revolutionary Cuba. The author portrays the variously glamorous, immoral, corrupt, decadent ‘anything goes’ Havana particularly well, but there is more to the book than just the doomed Cuba of the 1950s. In a quite engrossing manner, Santiago describes the hopes and dreams of often destitute individuals as they make sometimes successful attempts to advance in this ‘lost’ society. It is a well-told poignant tale, capturing the plight of a population caught in a devastated country.