The story of a lifetime told in the eye of a hurricane. Maria Sirena tells stories. She does it for money—she was a favorite in the cigar factory where she worked as a lettora—and for love, spinning gossamer tales out of her own past for the benefit of friends and family. But now, like a modern-day Scheherazade, she will be asked to tell a story so that eight women can keep both hope and themselves alive. Cuba, 1963. Hurricane Flora, one of the deadliest hurricanes in recorded history, is bearing down on the island. Seven women have been evacuated from their homes and herded into the former governor’s mansion, where they are watched over by another woman, a young soldier of Castro’s new Cuba named Ofelia. Outside the storm is raging and the floodwaters are rising. In a single room on the top floor of the governor’s mansion, Maria Sirena begins to tell the incredible story of her childhood during Cuba’s Third War of Independence; of her father Augustin, a ferocious rebel; of her mother, Lulu, an astonishing woman who fought, loved, dreamed, and suffered as fiercely as her husband. Stories, however, have a way of taking on a life of their own, and, swept up by her story’s momentum, Maria Sirena will reveal more about herself than she or anyone ever expected. Chantel Acevedo’s The Distant Marvels has the epic scope of a contemporary Gone with the Wind and a faith in the power of storytelling equal to Martel’s Life of Pi. It is a family saga, a love story, a stunning historical account of the struggle against oppressors, and a long tender plea for forgiveness. The Distant Marvels is, finally, a life-affirming novel about love that lasts a lifetime and the very art of storytelling itself.
Chantel Acevedo is the author of A Falling Star (Carolina Wren Press, 2014), winner of the Doris Bakwin Award; and Love and Ghost Letters (St. Martins, 2006), winner of the Latino International Book Award. She studied writing at the University of Miami with the late Lestor Goran. She is currently an Associate Professor of English at Auburn University, Alabama, where she founded the Auburn Writers Conference and edits the Southern Humanities Review.