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The Great American

“The Great American” is the story of one man’s search for love, justice and redemption in the maelstrom of revolutionary Cuba. William Morgan, a dyed-in-the-wool marine from Ohio, is first introduced as a typical yanqui out to have a good time in the fleshpots of pre-Castro Havana. By story’s end, he has become a noble, tragic figure, Zhivago-like in his pursuit of goodness and in his surrender to the enthrallment of a great passion.

When Morgan arrives in Havana, he finds that his best friend has been killed during an attack on the Presidential Palace. Morgan links up with the anti-Batista underground and falls in love with Laura, a revolutionary and the daughter of a prominent family. When their group fails at an attempt to assassinate the dictator, Morgan is spirited away to the mountains by a CIA agent. Believeing that Laura is dead, Morgan refashions himself as a committed revolutionary, rising to the highest rank, comandante, in the Second Front of the Escambray. He becomes a friend and saves the life of Che Guevara and joins forces with Castro’s army. The day that Batista flees Cuba, Morgan learns that Laura is still alive. Although he is married and his wife pregnant, in the heady days of Castro’s revolutionary triumph, Morgan resumes his love affair with Laura.

Soon Morgan’s attraction to the revolution goes sour and his alliances begin to shift, ultimately pitting him against Castro, who had made the American his confidante and right-hand man. Morgan’s disillusionment is total and he throws himself into the fray of conspiracy against the new government. His life and freedom — and his family’s — are at stake as he participates in the plot to assassinate Castro, entrapping himself in the winding sheet of betrayal and murder.

In “The Great American,” Alex Abella draws us a thorough and convincing portrait of the men and women who were the central figures of one of the most compelling periods of this century.


From Library Journal
Cuban-born Abella’s (The Killing of the Saints, LJ 9/1/91) second novel is set amid the drama of the overthrow of Cuban dictator Batista and the rise of Castro. William Morgan, an AWOL marine, comes looking for fun with a Cuban pal but is quickly caught up in the fight to topple Batista. Love also plays a central role, as the idealistic Morgan is driven by his often conflicting loves for Laura and Irma. The novel makes several direct references to Pasternak’s Dr. Zhivago, but this novel is not of the same caliber. Abella excels when he incorporates witchcraft scenes, Morgan’s awkward use of Spanish, and the complexity of the Castro revolution, especially as these relate to U.S. interests. But while an action novel with a conscience is to be appreciated, Morgan’s political-religious soul searching often intrudes. Look for this romantic novel possibly to resurface as a film.?
– Rebecca Sturm Kelm, Northern Kentucky Univ. Lib., Highland Heights
Copyright 1997 Reed Business Information, Inc.