Review: Rachel Kushner’s ‘Telex from Cuba’

Telex from Cuba: A Novel Telex from Cuba: A Novel by Rachel Kushner

My review

rating: 5 of 5 stars
Rachel Kushner’s well-researched debut novel about American nickel mining and sugarcane interests in Cuba’s former Oriente Province during the years leading up to Castro’s rise to power is a masterpiece quite simply because the author didn’t take the easy way out.

Her trips to Cuba, her family’s history and her interviews of multiple sources could have led to a commercial novel with a linear plot and a third-person restricted point of view. She could have plucked anyone out of her rich cast of characters and fashioned a credible story. Such a story would have read as realism, perhaps even as history, and given her writing skills, the novel probably would have done well.

Kushner took a risk when she stepped outside the domain of plot-driven, photographic realism and chose to allow multiple characters to tell portions of her story via a character-driven, theme-driven kaleidoscopic structure that is often a hallmark of literary fiction. Kushner has given her readers more of an impressionistic view of the well-off and largely isolated Americans in Cuba rather than a news story or a textbook view.

The result is a very rich immersion into the mindset and the culture of the time and place and people, much of which we learn two characters whose wouth is being defined by the swirl of events, K. C. Stites and Everly Lederer. The end of their childhoods is symbolic of the end of the Americans’ little paradise and sets the tone for this beautifully done novel.

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