Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Look Who WON a Print Copy of THE LAST HONEST MAN IN HAVANA by Melanie Furlong-Riesgo!

A love story—for family and country
One Print Copy goes to:

Esther G

The Last Honest Man in Havana
by Melanie Furlong-Riesgo

My rating: 5 stars

Publication Date: August 26, 2015
Publisher: Melanie Furlong-Riesgo
ISBN-13: 9781508908098
Genre: Fiction
Print Length: 179 pages
Available from: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
It is 1988 and Rafael √Āviles, an engineer at the Cuban Mint in Havana, is a young, earnest Communist Party member living with his ambitious wife, Elena.

When Rafael is drafted to the war in Angola, just as he is about to become a father, he takes a risk to escape the military—convinced he is doing what's best for his country.

As Communist countries around the world begin to see change, Cuba enters its dire Special Period and Rafael's family does what it can to survive. Rafael becomes disenchanted at work and, after a disastrous meeting with Fidel Castro, questions his Party ideals. Finally, he's convinced to do everything in his power to leave the island and improve his family's future.

This is at once a love story—for family and country—as well as a portrait of Havana during this tumultuous time.
The Last Honest Man in Havana by Melanie Furlong-Riesgo

The Last Honest Man in HavanaAs Americans, we are hard-pressed to truly understand a Communist dictatorship. Imagine living under conditions so difficult and under such scrutiny that your every move is watched, the amount of food you are entitled to but NOT guaranteed is regulated and health care is non-existent, unless you have the money to grease palms. Rafael believed the party line, he thought his family’s best interests were considered, until one day, he realized that he was nothing but a disposable commodity to a government who cared little for anything beyond its absolute power.

It was 1988, a time when Cuba was a mystery for Americans, and the American way was disparaged in Cuba. It is also a time when one young man realizes that beyond the love of family and favorite places, he must get his family out of this brutal environment if they are to ever know the true joy of living without the heels of a powerful government crushing their every effort to soar. Walk the streets of Havana, a jagged portrait of a city seen both through the heart and the harshness of its bleak reality. Feel Rafael’s heart tear in two as he realizes that escape, at any cost is all that is left, that the government he firmly believed in is not a benevolent institution guaranteeing equality, but a horrible, monstrous being built with lies and cemented with the blood of its people.

Follow Melanie Furlong-Riesgo as she fictionalizes the life and events her husband endured on his journey to freedom. The Last Honest Man is like a eulogy to the dreams and freedoms of Cuba’s sons and daughters who were left behind the iron bars of Communism and a beacon of strength for those fortunate enough to escape. Well-written, filled with the day to day lives of those in Havana, as well as the true beauty of a land that could have been paradise. Ms. Furlong-Riesgo gives a hands on look at a piece of history that has helped shape the world and the people we know today, imperfections and all. She reminds us that heroes and bravery take on all shapes and sizes.
Special from the author 
Why write about Cuba?
Writing my novel, The Last Honest Man in Havana, was my way of trying to understand exactly what my husband, Roberto, and his family went through during the country's tumultuous Special Period. He used to wake in the night screaming from nightmares he was trapped in Cuba. This was a period which had not been fictionalized by anyone else in English and I really wanted to know what happened.
Are the characters all based on real people?
Yes. My main character, Rafael, is not based on my husband, but is a 'cocktail' character made up of two men I know that live in Canada now. I feel this is their story as much as mine. Almost everything I write about in the novel actually happened and the characters are all based on real people, even the mailman, who is based on a vet technician I met there in 2008.
What kind of response did Cubans give you while you were doing research there?
At 25 years of age, that vet tech, had never heard of the Mariel Boatlift or the Special Period. When we told her about these things, she was very suspicious and made someone else confirm it. History is being re-written and re-told in Cuba. Meeting her made me more determined to see my novel through. It became important for me to make sure my children, and other readers, knew what happened there.

How did you get the idea for The Last Honest Man in Havana?

 My husband, Roberto, is from Cuba. He lived there for 30 years before I met him in Prague in 1996. The more I learned about his life and his family, the more I wanted to understand it.
Melanie Furlong-Riesgo was born in 1971 and grew up in Nova Scotia, British Columbia and Ontario, Canada. After graduating from Acadia University with a major in Spanish, she completed a B.Ed T.E.S.L. at Brock University. She taught English in the Czech Republic for three years and met her Cuban-born husband there. They now live in Nova Scotia with their two beautiful children. Melanie has been writing for various publications since 2001. The Last Honest Man in Havana is her first novel.
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