“Deeply moving, compulsively readable, Hotel Cuba chronicles the early twentieth century immigrant experience with a profound understanding and crackling urgency I’ve not previously encountered. I could not put it down and I could not stop thinking about it long after I’d reached its stunning conclusion. In short: You need to read this book. Right now.”–Joanna Rakoff, bestselling author of My Salinger Year
“Thick with the humid air of a Havana summer night, rich with mesmerizing detail, Hotel Cuba will grab you and not let you go.”–Dolen Perkins-Valdez, author of Take My Hand, Balm and Wench
From the award-winning author of The View from Stalin’s Head, a stunning novel about two sheltered Russian Jewish sisters, desperate to get to America to make a new life, who find themselves trapped in the sultry, hedonistic world of 1920s Havana.
Fleeing the chaos of World War I and the terror of the Soviet Revolution, practical, sensible Pearl Kahn and her lovestruck, impulsive younger sibling Frieda sail for America to join their sister in New York. But discriminatory new immigration laws bar their entry, and the young women are turned back at Ellis Island. With few options, Pearl and Frieda head for Havana, Cuba, convinced they will find a way to overcome this setback.
At first, life in big-city Prohibition-era Havana is overwhelming, like nothing Pearl and Frieda have ever experienced–or could have ever imagined in the rural shtetl where they grew up. As the sisters begin to adjust, their plans for going to America together become complicated. Frieda falls for the not-so-dreamy man of her dreams while Pearl’s life opens up unexpectedly, offering her a taste of freedom and heady romance, and an opportunity to build a future on her own terms. Though to do so, she must confront her past and the shame she has long carried.
A heartbreaking, epic family story, Hotel Cuba explores the profound courage of two women displaced from their home who strive to create a new future in an enticing and dangerous world far different from anything they have ever known.