Dancing to "Almendra": A Novel

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Farrar, Straus and Giroux, May 15, 2007 - Fiction - 272 pages
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Havana, 1957. On the same day that the Mafia capo Umberto Anastasia is assassinated in a barber's chair in New York, a hippopotamus escapes from the Havana zoo and is shot and killed by its pursuers. Assigned to cover the zoo story, Joaquín Porrata, a young Cuban journalist, instead finds himself embroiled in the mysterious connections between the hippo's death and the mobster's when a secretive zookeeper whispers to him that he "knows too much." In exchange for a promise to introduce the keeper to his idol, the film star George Raft, now the host of the Capri Casino, Joaquín gets information that ensnares him in an ever-thickening plot of murder, mobsters, and, finally, love.

The love story is, of course, another mystery. Told by Yolanda, a beautiful ex-circus performer now working for the famed cabaret San Souci, it interleaves through Joaquín's underworld investigations, eventually revealing a family secret deeper even than Havana's brilliantly evoked enigmas.

In Dancing to "Almendra," Mayra Montero has created an ardent and thrilling tale of innocence lost, of Havana's secret world that is "the basis for the clamor of the city," and of the end of a violent era of fantastic characters and extravagant crimes. Based on the true history of a bewitching city and its denizens, Almendra is the latest "triumph" (Library Journal) from one of Latin America's most impassioned and intoxicating voices.

 

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Dancing to "Almendra"

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It is 1957 in Havana, Cuba, and recent university graduate Joaquin has found a job as a journalist covering the local entertainment scene. Against his inclinations, he is sent to the local zoo to ... Read full review

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Contents

THE MESSAGE
HEY KIDS
BORIS
SANS SOUCI
THE KEY
THE CIRCUS
FISH AND EYES
APALACHIN
THE MIRROR
RUMBA
PRAYER
SNAKE
I TAKE REFUGE IN YOU
GHOSTS
BUICK SPECIAL
CHULITA

IN AN ASIAN PARADISE
DEATH IN THE BARBERSHOP
GORGEOUS HAVANA
A RIDDLE
ALMENDRA
SWEDISH LOVE
OH LIFE
THE MONEY MESSENGER
GOOMBAH
EPILOGUE
AUTHORS NOTE
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About the author (2007)

Mayra Montero is the author of a collection of short stories and of eight novels, including, most recently, Captain of the Sleepers (FSG, 2005). She was born in Cuba and lives in Puerto Rico, where she writes a weekly column in El Nuevo Dia newspaper.

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