Harris, R. Ira. Island of the White Rose. Bridge Works. Aug. 2013. 243p. ISBN 9780981617558. $24.95; ebk. ISBN 9780981617565. F
From an upper-class Havana family, Pedro Villanueva is a 34-year-old Cuban priest who struggles to fill his church while wrestling with his faith and trying to remain out of the political changes that are sweeping across the island. When he is asked by a parishioner to help his imprisoned son, Pedro witnesses the horrors of La Cabana prison. He decides to ask his affluent family to help. After a series of bribes and missteps, Pedro’s brother is killed and the priest joins the underground movement to support the antigovernment forces led by Fidel Castro fighting in the Sierra Maestra mountains. Two women in the underground Dolores Barre and Maria Guerra persuade him to use the family racing yacht, The White Rose, to smuggle weapons to the rebels. When the Batista government is overthrown, Pedro soon realizes that the new leadership is purging anyone it doesn’t trust. Knowing that his life will never be the same in Cuba, he uses The White Rose in one last, desperate act.
Verdict This debut novel is well-crafted historical fiction that vividly captures the excitement—and disillusionment—stirred by the Cuban revolution. Readers who enjoyed Patty Sheehy’sThe Boy Who Said No will want to check out this adventure.—Ron Samul, New London, CT