Waiting for Snow in Havana by Carlos Eire is a memoir from a Cuban boy involved in Operation Pedro Pan. Operation Pedro Pan is when 14,000 children were airlifted from Cuba after Castro came to power. The stories told are his memories of growing up during the takeover of the communists. Eire is considered a typically wealthy family in Cuba and his stories have a mostly happy connotation. The majority of the book is before Operation Pedro Pan, and less than a quarter of the book is his journey without his family in America.
Growing up in a relatively privileged area, I assumed reading this book would help me step out of my comfort zone and truly realize the world around me. I thought I could gain insightful information to a communist government and the struggle to survive in a foreign country. Eire showed through his personal story his differences in living before and after Castro. The personal stories made the book interesting and emotional, however, I thought it lacked the details I craved.
I craved the direct changes before Castro, after Castro, and moving to America. Eire did explain these through several short stories weaved into a novel, yet since he was born into a particularly rich family, the changes were less dramatic for him. One of the changes was for Christmas he got his brother’s old bike repainted. Castro is barely mentioned at all, he is bits and pieces, yet the reader must realize the narrator is 8-11 years old, so the knowledge of the changes in government are not through fact and policies, but in a recycled bike for a present. Eire mentions his cousin, Fernando, who is a rebel of the regime. More details on the rebellious side of Cuba and the actual war in the country was what I was expecting when I picked up the story to read.
Waiting for Snow in Havana does not do an excellent job at expressing history and facts on Operation Pedro Pan and Castro, but instead, it does an excellent job leaving the reader in their shoes. Carlos Eire was successful in taking me through his childhood and imagining getting pulled away from his picture perfect family. The reader is not left with a non-fiction history, but instead a heart-wrenching story. Waiting for Snow in Havana is not the book to pick up if you want to learn more about Cuba’s history, but if you are looking for an easy read with humor and hardships.
Reviewed by Avery Molineux