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The Second Death of Unica Aveyano

The Second Death of Unica Aveyano

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Written by Ernesto Mestre-ReedAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by Ernesto Mestre-Reed

  • Format: Trade Paperback, 272 pages
  •  
  • Publisher: Vintage
  • On Sale: March 9, 2004
  • Price: $13.00
  • ISBN: 978-1-4000-3316-4 (1-4000-3316-0)
Also available as an eBook.
about this book

One night in April, Única Aveyano sneaks out of her Miami nursing home and wanders toward the sea. Whether she intends to end her life or simply look at the ocean depends on whom you believe. She leaves behind her husband, a devoted nurse, the solicitude of her family—and the images of a little boy named Elián Gonzalez that are all over the news.

Her rash decision sets in motion a gorgeously told tale that is at once comedy and elegy. Every lived moment evokes for Única a story from her past, and we live that past with her: from the ghosts of her mother and stepfather in 1930s Guantánamo, and her beloved but wayward son, who refused to leave Cuba with the rest of the family, to her exile in Miami and New York City.

A chronicle of the familiar and the strange, of madness and clarity, of the ambivalence of home and family, The Second Death of Única Aveyano reveals unforgettably an indomitable woman whose entire life now seems a dress rehearsal for the heady days before her death.


“Ernesto Mestre-Reed is among the most gifted and accomplished storytellers to emerge from the Cuban diaspora. Mestre-Reed’s Cubans—whether in exile or on the island—are as deftly drawn as Phillip Roth’s Jews of Newark. Única Aveyano makes it clear to all that the soaring artistry and prowess of The Lazarus Rumba was not a fluke.” —Ann Louise Bardach, author of Cuba Confidential: Love and Vengeance in Miami and Havana

“This gorgeous tale of the last days of the indomitable and aptly named American-Cubana Única Aveyano is a tropical garden of a book, lush with histories, miracles, and ghosts. With the deftness and humanity of the great magical realists, Mestre-Reed makes an ordinary life into legend in language so lyrical it takes your breath away.” —Patricia Chao, author of Monkey King

“A powerful, funny, resonant tale of one extraordinary woman and the many lives she graces and ruins. Única Aveyano is as poignant and compelling and concentratedly Cubana as they come. She is mother to us all.” —Cristina Garcia, author of Monkey Hunting and Dreaming in Cuban

“Ernesto Mestre-Reed’s beautiful and often elegiac novel reminds us that the story of Elián Gonzalez is everyone’s story: the journeys of Única and her family are driven by the burdens of remembering and of forgetting. This book is important (even daring) in its weaving of the magical, spiritual lives of its characters with historical and political realities surrounding them. The yearnings and resolutions of these characters—Única especially—remain with us. By the end, we know for certain that going forward can be a difficult move, but returning—to the homeland, to those people who stayed behind, to the old stories that raised us—is probably the hardest thing one can ever possibly do. The novel is gorgeously sculpted and breathtaking in its scope.” —Carolyn Ferrell, author of Don’t Erase Me: Stories

“Ernesto Mestre-Reed is a masterful observer, the creator of dazzling word portraits: here the manifold details of family and romantic life, the subtlest shift of facial expression, the minor disappointments of any day, the most elusive yet crushing emotion, are all captured in poetic and daring prose. This novel, the story-fable of one family caught up in the tragedy of contemporary Cuba, draws its authority and unforgettable emotional power from that luminous intimacy.” —Francisco Goldman, author of The Ordinary Seaman

“Beneath the surface of Mestre-Reed’s prose there is a turbulent exchange between flesh and spirit, between free will and the caprice of fate. The Second Death of Única Aveyano unfolds like a dream, charged by lust and by sorrow, and fraught with the perils of an ulterior logic.” —David Hollander, author of L.I.E.

Mestre-Reed is a lyric novelist of uncommon power, creating a memorable portrait of a woman wracked by longing and memory yet fearlessly embracing impending death.” —Booklist

“Poetic and daring . . . Mestre-Reed is a masterful observer.” —Francisco Goldman, author of The Ordinary Seaman

“Of all the emotions, love has inspired more books than the others combined, but rarely have its manifestations been recorded in so dazzling a fashion as they are by Ernesto Mestre-Reed in his second novel, The Second Death of Única Aveyano. Love for family and country; love unrequited and unearned; love that inspires spirits to return and rambunctious teen angels to walk Miami beaches is what moves Única Aveyano—a 67-year-old, cancer-stricken Cuban refugee—to continue her struggle with life after trying to drown herself in the opening chapters. Mestre-Reed uses the magical realism adopted by Latin greats Gabriel García Márquez and Isabel Allende and makes it his own. Every luminous word, every astonishing image feels as if it must naturally follow the word before, so deft is Mestre-Reed’s touch and so willing are we to believe his enchanting tale . . . Mestre-Reed moves from past to present in Única’s life, and introduces readers to a fascinating cast of characters . . . In less sure hands, the fantastic events of Única’s life would be dismissed. But in scene after magical scene . . . Mestre-Reed weaves a story of such richness and delight that one cannot imagine Única and her life rendered any other way, by any other writer.” —Bookpage (March 2004)

“A compassionate portrait of a stalwart, aging ailing Cuban woman unwilling to relinquish her identity . . . Mestre-Reed skillfully employs dreams and fantasies to create a rich narrative fabric.” —Kirkus Reviews (December 15, 2003)