Third Place Books welcomes author and Hemingway scholar Ann Putnam to our Lake Forest Park store! Putnam will be discussing her lush and thrilling new novel Cuban Quartermoon. This event is free and open to the public. Registration is required in advance.
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It's July 1997 and all of Havana is mourning the discovery of Che Guevara's bones thirty years after his disappearance. But the protagonist, Hemingway scholar, Laura Gallagher, is running from the anniversary of the death of her baby girl 5 years ago. She goes as a stranger, but soon meets Hemingway scholars like herself, as Cuba unfolds before them. In the evening Laura visits Hemingway's home, the Finca Vigia, and sees the ghost of a little girl and the ghost of Hemingway himself. It is a sign she cannot yet read, that she is in a place elsewhere, and that she will enter a visionary state. That night she becomes so ill she believes she sees images of her mother, who took her own life when Laura was 12. She is cared for by a woman named Maria, who comes to her mysteriously in the night.
Laura and Maria and her daughter Pilar develop a deepening friendship that promises both trust and betrayal in this place where nothing is as it seems. She learns that Pilar is a jineteras, working as a prostitute in this, the "special period" of Cuban desperation, which followed the Soviet withdrawal in the early 1990's.
Laura's sense of threat turns to fear when a colleague disappears and she is assaulted in Old Havana by a man who grabs her, slams her against a brick wall and whispers, "Mind your own business." What business?
Maria is waiting for Laura when she returns to her room the next day, bearing an ominous request: will you carry my manuscript, the story of my life? "It has names in it," she admits. Laura agrees but fears she may have set in motion inexorable forces she does not understand. That afternoon in Havana, two visionary events occur: the appearance of a santera who blesses Laura, and a visit to a babalawo who offers a blood sacrifice for her healing.
That night at the hotel she sees Maria in the arms of the man who had assaulted her in Old Havana. She remembers an old Cuban proverb: "Believe only half of what you see in Cuba and nothing of what you hear." Feeling betrayed, she makes her way down the seawall to the ocean. But the tide rushes in, smacking her against the seawall, then pulling her out to sea, and for a terrifying moment she fears she will drown. An image of Maria calms her, as it did the night of her illness, so that she can feel her way to the stairs to safety, and the sense she will help Maria anyway she can.
"An American scholar visits Cuba and becomes embroiled in the politics of everyday life in this poetic novel by [Ann] Putnam . . . [T]his impressively expansive novel will appeal to [Hemingway fans], academics, Cubanophiles, and general readers . . . . A story with sumptuous description and a gradually intensifying plot that makes for compulsive reading."
—Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
"The protagonist of this . . . gripping novel . . . journeys into the heart of darkness [and] confront[s] a troubled past . . . even as it illuminates the . . . terrifying realities of Cuba amidst its own crisis of identity. The lush imagery and cutting edge prose of this narrative masterpiece makes for a compelling and transformative read."
—Linda Patterson Miller, PhD Author of Letters from the Lost Generation
"Narrated with haunting poetic language, Cuban Quartermoon transports its readers to the luscious landscapes, . . . and complicated politics of Cuba in the 90's. This magical story . . . is . . . imbued with Santeria spirituality as a healing of the soul, . . . . tak[ing] us to a world of . . . loss and longing, . . . renewal and hope."
—Loly Alcaide Ramirez, PhD, Spanish Language and Cultures University of Washington
Ann Putnam is an internationally-known Hemingway scholar, who has made more than six trips to Cuba as part of the Ernest Hemingway International Colloquium, sponsored by the Cuban Ministry of Culture. Her novel, Cuban Quartermoon, came, in part, from those trips, as well as a residency at Hedgebrook Writer’s Colony. She has published the memoir, Full Moon at Noontide: A Daughter’s Last Goodbye (University of Iowa Press), and short stories in Nine by Three: Stories (Collins Press), among others. Her literary criticism appears in many collections and periodicals. She holds a PhD from the University of Washington and has taught creative writing, gender studies and American Literature for many years. Her novel, I Will Leave You Never is forthcoming May 2023. She led the first Third Place Books Book Club discussion last year—Hemingway’s The Garden of Eden. She lives in Gig Harbor, Washington.
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