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Tomorrow They Will Kiss    by Eduardo Santiago order for
Tomorrow They Will Kiss
by Eduardo Santiago
Order:  USA  Can
Back Bay, 2006 (2006)

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* *   Reviewed by Sally Selvadurai

Many people find themselves adrift in a foreign land, but it is always more difficult when the choice is not entirely your own. Eduardo Santiago brings this predicament to life in his novel; three Cuban women arrive in the United States after Fidel Castro's successful revolution. Though they're all from the same small town, each one of the trio is very different in temperament and outlook.

Santiago gives us thoughtful insights into the minutiae of life in Cuba - both before and after the revolution - and the effect it had on the Cuban middle class, particularly our three main characters, Graciela, Caridad and Imperio. Graciela is not a particularly close friend of Caridad and Imperio, but once in Union City she is treated with kindness by everyone in the Cuban community. Graciela vows that she is not going to remain trapped in a low paying job because of her lack of education, and works hard to learn English and experience new things. This seems scandalous to Caridad and Imperio, who are more than happy to remain tied to their Cuban community, afraid to make the leap of faith to embrace a new culture and always longing for the day they can return to their homeland.

Tomorrow They Will Kiss is both inspiring and compassionate. It leaves a haunting impression of the strength and weakness of small town Cuba, and the necessary ties that bind one person to another in a foreign land.

2nd Review by Barbara Lingens:

Eduardo Santiago has imagined himself into the lives of three Cuban women, immigrants to the United States only because of the Castro government. Though they have the opportunity to make a new life, they must first overcome the influence of the old one.

Graciela, Caridad and Imperio grew up together in an inland Cuban village. Since Caridad and Imperio know that it is important to act properly, they are incensed to see that Graciela does not, and that she has brought disgrace on her family and her husband. As the village suffers more and more under the Castro regime and rumors spread, Caridad and her husband flee to Miami in the middle of the night. Shortly after, Imperio and her husband follow. Graciela stays, hoping her fortune will change. When she finally realizes this is not going to happen, she too emigrates to Miami, and before long she finds herself working in the same New Jersey factory that now employs her former neighbors.

Caridad and Imperio remain Cubans; they are unwilling to make changes to accommodate their new living conditions because they are just waiting to return to Cuba. Graciela, on the other hand, is willing to make changes, and despite the other two's suspicions of anything she does, she eventually does find a way to have a life in the United States.

This is a first-time novel, and Santiago gets lots of kudos for being able to get inside the female mind. Some bits are hilarious, and the writing shows a real familiarity with the Cuban culture (Santiago is Cuban-born). The parallel stories of the telenovelas and the play on the book's title work wonderfully. But, while we understand the different personalities of the three women, their voices are really not that well differentiated. I also wondered at how little-developed the men in the story were. Nevertheless, readers who enjoy Oscar Hijuelos' stories will find this one of interest as well.

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