Rated ***** stars. (Originally published in 1989). 2013. ebook. RosettaBooks
Using the past and present, as seen through the eyes of various key characters, “The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love” tells the story of Nestor and Oscar, two brothers who left Havana, Cuba for New York City in 1949. Nestor and Oscar were complete opposites in personality yet were talented musicians, looking to bring their mambo style of music to NYC and make it big.
The story of Cuba, its culture, and its immigrants, along with the NYC of the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s, are interspersed with the story of melancholic Nestor and his overly sexually active brother Oscar as told through the screen of time. Along with stories and memories of their friends, lovers and wives, Hijuelo weaves in history lessons of music’s time and place, teaching readers about famous Cuban and Puerto Rican musicians like Xavier Cugat, Desi Arnaz, Tito Puente and Celia Cruz (among others) who set the stage for Nestor and Oscar while placing the music world on its head. Heartache and happiness, love and hate, death and life are just some of the emotions adult readers will feel as they read of a time when Mambo was King.
Hijuelo was the first Latino author to be awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1990 for “The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love,” and it was also made into a movie in 1992. Though Hijuelos passed away in October 2013, his Mambo Kings will live on forever.
Recommended for Adult readers.