|Heart stopping drama and romance set against Hemingway’s high rolling world|
Hemingway’s Girl by Erika Robuck
NAL Trade, September 4 2012
Paperback 352 pages
Review copy from the author, thank you!
Burton Book Review Rating:
“She remembered when Hemingway had planted a banyan tree at his house and told her its parasitic roots were like human desire. At the time she’d thought it romantic. She hadn’t understood his warning.”
In Depression-era Key West, Mariella Bennet, the daughter of an American fisherman and a Cuban woman, knows hunger. Her struggle to support her family following her father’s death leads her to a bar and bordello, where she bets on a risky boxing match…and attracts the interest of two men: world-famous writer, Ernest Hemingway, and Gavin Murray, one of the WWI veterans who are laboring to build the Overseas Highway. When Mariella is hired as a maid by Hemingway’s second wife, Pauline, she enters a rarified world of lavish, celebrity-filled dinner parties and elaborate off-island excursions. As she becomes caught up in the tensions and excesses of the Hemingway household, the attentions of the larger-than-life writer become a dangerous temptation…even as straightforward Gavin Murray draws her back to what matters most. Will she cross an invisible line with the volatile Hemingway, or find a way to claim her own dreams? As a massive hurricane bears down on Key West, Mariella faces some harsh truths…and the possibility of losing everything she loves.
Erika Robuck’s first novel, Receive Me Falling, was indicative of great things to come. I mooned happiness in my review of that one, and I shall do the same here. I love how Erika can transport the reader to another place in time with just a few words, and words that she skillfully weaves together to give us the impression of being there with her characters.
And her characters are always so well put together – flaws and all – including a certain Mr. Hemingway, his family, and the fictional Mariella Bennet. This is an emotive mix of love, loyalty, self-renewal, betrayal, jealousy all set against the Depression era giving us such an intense backdrop for this Key West novel.
Ernest Hemingway is living with wife number two in Key West when Mariella becomes the hired help. Ernest is called ‘Papa’ and he calls her ‘daughter’. The two have an amazingly tantalizing relationship which you never know when they are going to take it to the next level. When she meets the war vet Gavin Murray, things turn into a sort of love triangle times two, and the almost twenty year old Mariella is forced to grow up or jeopardize all hopes of getting her family out of squalor.
The scenery of Florida and the era of the sadness of the surviving war veterans of the Great War were depcited so very well. The storyline was imaginative yet with so many moving parts of Gavin’s life, Mariella’s familial struggles, Hemingway’s struggles with everything.. the disdain of the locals.. the entire thing was so put together in a perfect little package that I can happily say I told you so when I gushed in my review of her last book.
Hemingway’s Girl is so rich with its atmospheric tone it will pull you in with the monstrous waves of the Hurricane that swept through Florida, and you will want to make sure you set aside enough time at night to get to the end because you will NOT want to put it down during the last seventy pages or so. And have a box of tissues, because I was sobbing. I adored these characters, all of them, that I cared deeply about them before the book was done. Perfectly fantastic storytelling in this treasure of a novel. Erika Robuck should make Hemingway proud by using him in this way. (wink wink – you’ll understand that line when you read it).