Unlike his bouncy The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, Hijuelos' latest novel is a slow dance, an elegy to a cleaning woman, that continues the author's celebration of his Cuban roots. His Lydia moves with stoic grace through decades of caring for a sickly husband, guiding her children to successful adulthoods and straightening up other people's digs. That she had been a head-turning beauty and proud daughter of a mayor in pre-Castro Cuba would not occur to someone sitting opposite her on the subway. Yet as a character endowed with romantic yearnings, she is hard to ignore. Hijuelos' episodic format doesn't quite gel. But that is more than offset by his emotional fine tuning and pitch-perfect prose.