By Erika Robuck
Published by: NAL Trade
Source: E-galley from Edelweiss and NAL Trade/Penguin
Mariella Bennet is a young woman in 1935 Key West Florida. She is the daughter of a Cuban mother and an American father, a mixture not readily accepted. Her father has recently died, leaving Mariella the to care for her grieving mother and two little sisters. What she dreams of is having her own fishing boat, but the current market is glutted with fish in Key West. Her father had many friends, and they try to help the family, and a referral leads Mariella to a job as a domestic in the home of Ernest Hemingway. She immediately realizes why both men and women are drawn to him, he is charismatic and powerful, but he is married and much older than her. Mariella enjoys a cold beer, a good fight, and to achieve this in her time she dresses in old clothes of her father, and on such an occasion, while betting on a fight, she meets WWI Veteran Gavin Murray. She feels drawn to him, also an older man, but she wonders how she can care for her family, and keep Hemingway at bay too.
Where to begin with my thoughts on this book. Wow, a powerful story of family in crisis and a young woman struggling to keep it all together, and yes also yearning for love. The growth of Mariella is a beautiful story in itself. She experiences tragedy, mystery, passion, and love. The setting of Key West, at a time when much in our country was changing is so intriguing. I knew very little of the struggles of the WWI veterans and many of them helping build the Overseas Highway that connects US1 to all the Florida Keys. Mariella and Gavin share their lives with so many others, watching family and friends struggle with the economic downturn in the Depression Era time, and yet they see the extravagance and sometimes waste of the Hemingway family.
I read some Hemingway in college, but now, after reading this book, learning more of the many many friends and followers refer to as “Papa”, I’m eager to jump in and read more of this work. Most scholars agree that Hemingway changed how we view literature, and this compelling novel has pushed me back and thrilled to be searching for Hemingway again.
Erika Robuck has researched and woven this story in a way that will capture your time and imagination. If you are like me the book will not want you to put it down. It’s an end of summer read that will leave you wanting more from Key West, and Papa, and wishing Mariella all her dreams come true. I’ve given this book a 5 out of 5 stars and I highly recommend it to everyone.