Books: Empress Of The Splendid Season

By Oscar Hijuelos

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...

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