Luz: Luis Gonzalez
Envision a life where your decisions are made by your government and your every movement monitored. Imagine finally begin able to leave this world, escaping with only the clothes on your back knowing that the poverty and the wrong doings of a government so corrupt and inept would finally be in the distance and a new world would await you as you venture to the shores of America freeing yourself from the struggles you have endured in Cuba. Based on the real life events of the exodus from Mariel Crisis in 1980, author Luis Gonzalez highlights the experiences endured by many but focuses on the journeys of both Clara and Rico yearning to make the 90-mile trip, by raft with their friends. But, Clara decides to visit her closest friend, talk about their leaving and learns that not everything in life goes as planned. Throughout the several first chapters of this book the author sets the stage for a dramatic surprise as we hear the voices of Amalia’s family trying to convince her not to leave. We see her lying on her bed as if in a trance tuning out their thoughts, words and actions as many family members venture to her room’s door, no one going in and each group voicing, airing and stating what they think will happen and how they will bring her back into their fold while Clara sits next to her friend, learns about the change in her own plans and finally decides to venture home. But something draws her in a different direction and the visions of her life pass through her mind, the Melacon or seawall hypnotizes her, her marriage to Rico his job opportunities, disappointments and more are shared with readers as you wonder whether she will return home wanting to leave this country or filled with doubts and guilt about leaving her family behind.
Getting to know both Rigo and Clara we begin to understand their longings, goals, frustrations and family histories. While Rigo is bent on forging ahead with his career as an architect he faces many drawbacks when dealing with the Ministry of Cuba, projects that he is promised and then has taken away and goals that he hopes to achieve but cannot. Finding himself teaching calculus to fifth graders, creating a library system for a cattle oriented town he becomes jaded in some respects and has his eyes opened in others as he ventures to another town and sees the project that he was once promised happening without him. Then there is Clara who aspired to become a journalist and graduated with high marks and was accepted to an Elite program in college only to have it taken away because they claim there was not enough interest in the program. Disappointed, angry and not understanding why she could not pursue another area she was dismissed and told to try again in five years as that’s how Cuba works.
Then we meet Clara’s parents and sisters and learn about her father’s mission in Iraq hoping to train the military there in Spanish since he’s a translator and has many college degrees. Sugar is the goal to promote how to create their own crop to benefit both Cuba and Iraq he does not heed the warnings of his family enters into this mission only to be betrayed by someone claiming to be his friend. Customs around the world differ and trying to respect one gets his job terminated. Anger, betrayals, lies, frustrations and deceits fill the first few chapters of this novel.
What if you receive a message that changes your life in a ethereal way? What if the messenger was sent by the Creator to explain that your journey to America will not happen? Throughout the chapter titled Messes we hear many different thoughts and voices as Clara remembers parts of her life that she thought she would forget. An older sister that lost her sight due to an illness because of the lack of certain foods in her diet due to government rations. What about her father and the reasons he lost his job, her college entrance and her mother’s fears? What happens when one friend gives her hope for the future, provides her with a different format for her writing and she becomes part of a powerful group seeking change for Cuba and hoping to correct the ills and wrongs that the government unleashed on its people, called the Insurrectionists, and you hope to succeed in a new country and carry on your work no longer exists? Would you believe that you were put on this earth for a special reason that the Creator insists that you are the only one that can carry it out? What will happen when the vision disappears, the images fade and the real world and real time sets in will Clara do as the Angel tells her or will she journey anyway?
Remaining behind would mean allowing her husband to leave with her closest friends and be gone from her life. What if the reason you were told to remain was because you are no longer barren and would now give birth to a special child who belonged to the Creator. Clara would no longer have a normal life and would have to find her own spiritual meaning if she wanted to remain sane. The government of Cuba faces many changes and he life that that of those in control would no longer remain the same. Luz is the name chosen for her child as the author now reveals what happens when Rigo is told of her decision and her life begins without him.
What is most illuminating and quite different are the conversations between God and his son referred to as The Son of Man. The younger man is angry, belligerent and feels that Earth should be decimated and gone. He hates man, thinks he is inferior and will never learn from his misdeeds. God on the other hand made a promise that he would stand by what he created and never go back on his word to man and keep the Earth from faltering. In Heaven we hear both the Father and Son discuss the birth of his new sister, why God decided at this time of his life to have another child and their bantering back and forth hoping to make the Son understand why he needs to give daughters more love and understanding and why he still has one more job that needs to be done. Why the Son seems to have gotten off on a first name basis with Satan and why he has to return to Earth to take care of him the his Father requests still remains to be unfolded.
Reading the dialogue sequence between The Creator and The Son of Man we understand his motives for some of his actions and why man must learn from his misdeeds. As Clara enters her home and secludes herself she seeks Solace in reading the Bible, the Four Gospels according to John and focusing on the Fourth we learn the many character traits of Jesus, his bravery, his beliefs, the fact he resisted the ways of those that ran the government and his viewpoints were not of the same as those that were in power. Religion plays a major role within this novel, women and their role in their community and Clara’s forceful nature to make sure that her “Daughter” is grows to be someone special but still wonders why God chose her and what her daughter’s role in the world will be. As Jesus had the power to touch and heal what would hers be?
The author then switches gears as Clara’s family becomes aware of her presence and the reasons why she did not leave Cuba. But her behavior becomes strange, erratic and all too often she isolates herself having visions of her father, her past and what she thinks might be her future. But, when she finally alights from her dark the scene around her is quite compelling and her mother who is quite religious has turned her home into a religious shrine and even tells her about the séance and trying to connect with her father in order to help her. Mother Superior Melcha and other occult members form sides and try to take hold of Clara and her baby’s souls. As the Son of Man asks his father if he will be part of the child’s life his response is quite remarkable. Cuba faced many political changes and when the child is born Clara’s behavior wanders from lucid to delusional at times. Thinking Rigo called and wants her to put her child on a raft and send her to him, her family thinking she is not capable of handling her child and a friend from the past links her with her father and what she must do next.
The final two chapters are quite graphic, filled with the occult, dealing with a mother who seems overpowering and determined to have her grandchild cleansed because of a stranger’s contact. Miracles happen and one family finds themselves in turmoil as Clara faces conflicts within herself, her mother and those she brought to her home to fight for the soul of Luz and Clara. The next to last chapter titled Parts and Parcel will not only surprise readers but create a twist in the plot that most would not expect. As Clara relates the true events and circumstances behind her daughter’s birth to a mother who at times appears self-absorbed, only concerned about her own needs and wants, the reaction she gets is startling and the end result gives new meaning to cover-up. What does her mother want her to do when questioned? Why shouldn’t anyone know the truth? What does her mother do in order to cleanse and purify her home and her life? Where will Luz and Clara go next and what will their final fate be? Why does one guest in her mother’s home say she received a message from her father to believe in the word of the Lord? Why does another speak many tongues and one feels she is not worthy of being the presence of this child? An ending that will give you wondering what is next and just what the creator has in mind. Truths, lies, deceits and betrayals but whose are they and where do they fall?
The final chapter is titled Favors where you hear the voice of the Creator and the Son Of Man. What they discuss and the outcome you will have to learn for yourself as you listen to the Orchestra and watch the Creator Conduct one of my favorite piano pieces Autumn Leaves. Where will life take Clara? Will she continue to hide the truth. Author Luis Gonzalez leaves many questions religious, ethical, moral and social unanswered until the next chapter of their lives takes place and you read: Luz: Daughter of God.