Key West was a place dear to my heart in the 1950s and up to about 1962. When I revisited in the 1970s, it was a different place. That's why I was anxious to read this story set in 1935 Key West when Hemingway was in residence and the overseas highway was under construction.
The main character is Mariella Bennet whose Cuban mother was disowned by her family for marrying an American fisherman. As the story begins, Hal Bennet has died and Mariella's mother is so deep in grief that it is up to her three daughters to look after themselves. They are desperately poor so Mariella works odd jobs on the waterfront to feed her little sisters and her mother.
Then she meets Hemingway and is hired as a maid in the home where he lives with his second wife, Pauline, and their children. The house is described in perfect detail, and the characterization of both Papa and Pauline are excellent. Papa and Mariella are drawn to each other and Pauline feels threatened; as Mariella struggles to avoid crossing any lines.
Meanwhile, she has met a veteran of WW I, one of many who are working on the overseas highway. I knew there had been a terrible hurricane that killed many of those workers, and the scene in this book carried me away. It was the most powerful scene in the book.
I don't want to give away any more of this excellent story, but just know that this is a wonderful read. I highly recommend this book whether you know Key West or not. The characters and settings will draw you in just as they did me.
Source: Amazon Vine