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By Oscar Hijuelos

The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love is a Pulitzer Prize-winning modern American vintage, a booklet that also captivates and conjures up readers 20 years after its first book. Now, in Beautiful Maria of My Soul, Oscar Hijuelos returns to this indelible tale, to inform it from the perspective of its cherished heroine, Maria.

She's the nice Cuban good looks who stole musician Nestor Castillo's middle and broke it, inspiring him to write down the Mambo Kings' greatest hit, ''Beautiful Maria of My Soul.'' Now in her sixties and residing in Miami along with her pediatrician daughter, Teresa, Maria continues to be a attractiveness, nonetheless able to turning heads. yet she hasn't ever forgotten Nestor, and as she thinks again to her days--and nights--in Havana, a completely new point of view at the Mambo Kings tale unfolds.

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In just a number of months, this bony-limbed, knob-knuckled negrito angel had opened María’s eyes, instructing her a few issues. at the beginning, she may well slightly understand what she learn, yet she obtained larger, little by little. And he, basking within the loveliness of her formative years, sought after not anything for it, shop for a couple of sandwiches now and then—he used to be the kind who appeared hungry yet didn’t act it. In these months, phrases and their meanings, and how the letters of the alphabet prepared themselves into phrases, started to keep on with her far and wide, alongside the streets of Havana, whereas she was once soaking in a tub, or even as she danced, shaking her derriere onstage. They María like birds, or like these black notes that flew in clusters throughout a musician’s association charts on the membership. bankruptcy FIFTEEN One night on the membership a number of months later—it was once October—the residence band had damaged right into a tropical jam. A jazzed up model of “Rumba caliente” begun the express, and this, to a lot applause, used to be via a frenetic “El cumbanchero. ” but when she’d do not forget that specific night of performances, it used to be simply because one of many dancers, fifteen-year-old Paulita, in the middle of an acrobatic regimen, collapsed midstep, her correct foot slipping off a bench as she leapt as much as sign up for María atop a piano, the terrible factor falling head backwards to the ground. Even prior to the express, while Paulita, taking a look faded and drawn and sitting in entrance of her replicate, her hair in curlers, had complained that her abdominal ached, they knew what that used to be approximately. the ladies within the refrain had raised cash for the abortion she’d gotten a couple of days earlier—cost 40 money, and with a true health practitioner, now not a few back-alley hack—but who between them imagined that it could actually were botched so badly? For as she lay sprawled at the degree, the song preventing and the emcee, a clever crooner named Ricky Romero, popping out from in the back of the by surprise closed curtains to suggest the muttering, drunken viewers in either English and Spanish that every one was once good, and that momentarily the exhibit might proceed, out of the negative girl’s tasseled backside seeped a widening flower of blood. The boss had her carried off, or even gave one of many stagehands cash to hurry her to the health center, muy pronto, the dancers, hysterical, crying, occurring with their functionality besides and as a rule discovering their marks, yet with no a lot enthusiasm in any respect. A dispiriting evening, the type of night while María wouldn’t have minded having Ignacio round, for occasionally she came across his energy a convenience, whether he beat her, yet in recent years he hadn’t been coming by means of the membership as usually as he used to. in actual fact, she hadn’t visible as a lot of him as a rule. He’d say that he needed to depart, claiming he had company in Miami, or within the Yucatán, or in Santiago de Cuba. yet she didn’t understand what to think. as soon as whilst Ignacio had left a booklet on her desk, through the window searching over the road, María, pushed through interest to work out if she may well decipher some of its phrases, flipped via its pages to discover, wedged deep into the backbone, a small black-and-white, serrate-edge photo of a sultry dancer often called the “fabulous Lola Sánchez,” the again of it bearing the imprint of her burgundy-painted lips and an inscription; the one phrases María may decide upon have been amor and besitos.

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