Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Beautiful Maria of My Soul

New books are generally released on Tuesdays. I know this because I've worked in a bookstore for four years. So, every Tuesday, I go to my store and check out the new releases.

A few Tuesdays ago, I saw this book:


Oh my God, what a gorgeous title! Beautifulbeautifulbeautiful!!! It took my breath away. I carried that book around with me for a while, sharing the title with anyone who stood still in front of me for any length of time. In all my life, I could not remember a title of a book ever having that sort of affect on me. Plus, it was written by a Latino, and I love Latino writers. I love their prose and the loveliness of their words.

I had to read this book. I glanced at the blurb on the back of the jacket and found out that it was based on another novel by Oscar Hijuelos called "Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love."

Ah yes! I've heard of this book before but where?? Then it came to me; this book had won the Pulitzer years ago. Must be good then! So I bought a copy and took it home.

I went to my online book club and did a search for reviews. This is what I found. Mostly bad reviews. Bad. My heart felt heavy because I was so excited about finding these books. I almost threw it away but my sense of tossing out something I've paid cold cash for went against my grain. I figured I would give it a try. 15 pages. 25 pages. Big yawn. 30 pages..hmmm. 35 pages, wow. 40? And I am hooked, hooked into one of the best books I have read in a long long time! Wonderful! I am so wrapped up in the lives of Nestor and Cesar Castillo and Delores and yes, Maria! that I can hardly bear to put the book down and turn off the light at night. I can't wait to add MY review to those at my book club. I can't wait to rave and rant and go on like a maniac. Yes, a raving maniac!

What I learned? Do not put much faith into reviews. Try a book, taste it feel it breathe it live it and then, decide for yourself,


  1. Critics are just that- critics. Not people to guide you're own life by- just people that with a superbly annoying habit of making sure everyone knows exactly how they feel about something.
    To boot, they're usually far off the mark. I'm glad you found a good book- I may have to read Maria myself. :)

  2. Anon, there are certain critics whom I trust. For instance, I would read just about anything John Updike recommended in The New Yorker because I trusted his judgement. He died about a year and a half ago tho, so I lost that resource except for his past reviews. I also have a smattering of friends whose taste is impeccable and i trust them too. The people in that site are just giving their opinions; they are not really critics, per se. And most of the complaints have to do with the sexual content in the Mambo Kings. To me, and you know me fairly well, if sexual content is handled well, I don't mind it one bit. It's part of the human experience.

    Some of those folks couldn't understand why the book won the Pulitzer. As someone who has spent a lifetime trying to familiarize myself with great literature, I disagree with them. This book deserved the highest accolades. I think it merits every award it has won.

  3. Sex in a novel? You just sold me! I really enjoyed this post Beej and will check out the book when I'm out and about. Thanks!

  4. I think you'll like Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love, a lot Candy. I glanced thru Beautiful Maria of My Soul today and I might just have to read it as soon as I finish Mambo Kings.

  5. That is so true.. Too True.. You cant judge a book by its cover and you have to read it for yourself I have learned over the years.. Well ok some books I have judged and they have been just that dry..

  6. They both sound wonderful.. My adopted dads daughter wrote a book and it comes out Oct 1st. I cant wait to get my hands on a copy.. I want a copy from her signed but no deal..LOL... But I still want one saying I got one of her books. I will have to let you know who it is.. You can watch for it. Its by Kimberly Mack and its called The Eclipsed Heart I believe.. Its being sold on Amazon or Barnes and Noble.com right now. Its got the wrong last name on the book now.. she is hoping they fix it before it comes out..LOL.. they put her maiden name on the book..


Go ahead, you can do it! Just whistle if you want me. You know how to whistle, don't you? You just put your lips together and BLOW....

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