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Hotel Cuba

A Novel

by Aaron Hamburger

Hotel Cuba by Aaron Hamburger X
Hotel Cuba by Aaron Hamburger
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There are currently 23 member reviews
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  • Esther L. (Newtown, PA)
    Hotel Cuba
    With thanks to BookBrowse for being able to read Hotel Cuba. Pearl and her younger sister Frieda,like many of the other passengers on the ship to Cuba,are Jewish people fleeing from religious persecution in Russia and Poland and the violence of brutal pogroms. All of my grandparents emigrated to America before the time period of the book but for the same reasons. I was too young to ask about their experiences but really wished that I had. It must have been heartbreaking for them to see the rise of Hitler and the Holocaust. Not knowing the fates of their families and friends left behind must have been awful.
    The book was beautifully written and you feel all that the characters are going through. Highly recommend.
  • Terry G. (McLean, VA)
    Hotel Cuba and my Grandparents
    My grandfather left Russia to escape serving in the Russian army because he did not want to eat non-Kosher food. He emigrated to Canada where he supported himself by shoveling snow until he could enter America. He entered America through Ellis Island and settled in Indianapolis, Indiana where he opened a small grocery store. My grandmother followed several years later when they could afford the costs. Pearl's story could be my grandfather's story as well as the story of many immigrants from Eastern Europe at the time of this story. I gained greater insight and empathy for my grandparents and all the other immigrants from reading Hotel Cuba.
  • Paula K. (Champaign, IL)
    Hotel Cuba
    Using his family's story as the inspiration for Hotel Cuba, Aaron Hamburger spins a fascinating tale of the struggles of immigrating from Russia to the United States (with a significant diversion to Cuba) in the period following WWI. Although the story is that of three sisters, the focus is on Pearl, the sister on whom everyone relies. She has raised her younger sister Frieda following their mother's death and she continues to be the dominant personality as the two sisters are diverted to Cuba due to a change in U.S. immigration law. The third sister, Basha, who was the first to immigrate (directly) is almost totally undeveloped and her story is not really told.

    Hamburger raises many important questions about immigrants, although he glosses over the implications of illegal immigration with hardly a look back. He also briefly touches on homosexual subcultures in Havana and New York City, but he leaves much undeveloped. But there is much to admire in this novel. He is particularly skilled in making places - Havana, New York, and Detroit - come to life as additional characters. For the most part, Hamburger tells a compelling story and he tells it well. Hotel Cuba will appeal to readers of historical fiction as well as to anyone interested in immigration in the early 1920s.
  • Christine P. (Essex Junction, VT)
    Hotel Cuba
    In Aaron Hamburger's book Hotel Cuba about the struggles of Russian Jews trying to make their way to the US after World War I, he has told a compelling story about the struggles of Jewish immigrants after the First World War. I found Hamburger's descriptions of Turya, Havana, New York City and Detroit, the immigration process and the immigrant community's never ending struggles pulled me right in, but his character development left me cold. Pearl in particular was a challenge. Although her world and circumstances changed dramatically, her outlook and character never seemed to grow or fluctuate. I kept hoping there was more to her than the monochromatic character present by the author. But it never happened. Just when I thought she might loosen up and I would get to know her a little better, she shut down, and eventually so did I.
  • Mark S. (Palm Beach Gardens, FL)
    Human Spirit Survival
    Pearl's journey from Poland to America is long and arduous. Big sister to Frieda, and alone in a foreign country, proves to be frightening, confusing and difficult to navigate at times. The scenes from Havana and Key West seem real. Anyone who has traveled there will surely recognize those locales. Slow reading at times, we cheer Pearl to persevere.
  • Babe H. (Augusta, IL)
    Immigration Story
    Hotel Cuba is the saga of two Russian sisters leaving their homeland to try to get to America in 1922. Hamburger relates the trials and struggles and disappointments incurred as the women, Pearl and Frieda, must settle for Cuba as a destination.
    Pearl, in her late 20's, is a mother figure to Frieda, an 18 year old. They have an older sister, Basha, that has already made it to New York and with whom they hope to reunite. Without too much description, Pearl appears to be a rather dumpy, overweight pessimist. Frieda however seems like a pretty, fun-loving airhead looking forward to meeting up with her fiancé-to-be who has already made it to America.
    The first part of the novel describes the boat trip with much of the same type of trials experienced in most immigrant stories. Unfortunately neither of the sisters are very likable. They end up working in a hat shop in which, as expected, Pearl works hard and develops a talent for design while Frieda does little but try to get out of Cuba to America. As the story evolves Frieda manages to successfully get smuggled out while Pearl gets to Key West only to be deported back to Cuba. This is where the book gets interesting. Pearl begins to meet a variety of unusual people that liven the plot. The Rabbi, Alexander, Martin and The Queen of England add excitement and color to an otherwise predictable story.
    Pearl becomes someone more likable and adventuresome as she meets Alexander, follows the Rabbi's advice, and runs into Senora Martin and The Queen. Being more successful with the second attempt to leave Cuba, Pearl reunites with Frieda and Basha only to discover more hard times and work. However Pearl has developed enough self-confidence and ability to communicate to go into interesting, predictable professional and romantic relationships.
    I would most likely not have finished this book if I had not agreed to review it. My concern is that other readers will do that and miss everything from Chapter 9 or 11 on where I felt that the characters became interesting.
  • Tonyia R. (Hillsborough, NJ)
    The exile of two Jewish sisters in Cuba
    "Hotel Cuba" by Aaron Hamburger reminded me of the book, "Remember Me: A Spanish's Civil War" by Mario Escobar. Here, is a time when Jews were diverted to Cuba due to US immigration quota laws. The book focuses more on the life and struggles of Pearl and her younger sister, Frieda as they adapt to Cuban life and as they plan to illegally immigrate to America through Florida and New Orleans from Cuba, to reach family in New York's Lower East Side in early 1900s.
    There are some flash backs about their lives in the 'Old Country' that they were escaping for freedom, independence and financial security. But it was not as compelling to understand their risk and determination to leave. It had to be heart-rendering to end up in Cuba instead of the US.

    Pearl, the older sister protecting Frieda, is definitely the heroine in this novel. The bond of love, and the sister's respect and honor for family is evident. There is interesting information in the acknowledgements that divulges the foundation and history that motivated the author to write this novel. Some of this information should have been incorporated in the fictional story to make the novel more alluring. The depiction of the Cubans or other refugee Jews was not compassionate or gracious, considering Cuba was a beautiful haven for those who were escaping some type of injustice or oppression. However, with the right opportunities and laws, US can be a place to begin anew.

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