Published by: New American Library
Published on: September 4, 2012
Page Count: 326
Genre: Historical Fiction
My Reading Format: Review copy sent to me by the publisher for consideration.
Available Formats: Paperback and eBook
Mariella has just lost her father, a Key West fisherman, and her mother is sick with grief. As a young woman, it is up to her to care for her family and keep a roof over their heads. To make matters worse, her youngest sister, Lulu, suffers from debilitating fevers that require frequent doctor visits. Mariella, who dreamed of starting a tour boat company with her father someday, does what she can by working odd jobs on the docks until the day she meets Ernest Hemingway. He’s got a reputation, but she can’t turn down an offer to work as a maid in his household, even while she fights her attraction to this married man.
There is much to like about Hemingway’s Girl. You have Ernest in his element. He is a successful writer living in Key West with easy access to the water, fishing, and the occasional boxing match. He is a strong man with strong impulses. His marriage to Pauline may not be what he’d like, but it’s questionable whether he was really well suited to marriage. Mariella is a beautiful girl of mixed heritage. Her father is American and her mother is Cuban. What she lacks in life experience she makes up for in courage and moxie. Not unlike Hemingway, she fights for what is important to her and has the guts to gamble when necessary. In many ways, he met his match in Mariella. He needed her as much as she needed him.
Amidst the beauty of Key West, Erika Robuck depicted a working life made more difficult by harsh economic conditions and a place where shell shocked WWI veterans were brushed aside and left to self medicate. Her characters are rich and, perhaps because of the trouble surrounding them, they were unafraid to show their flaws. They were not without their dreams and it was this pursuit that kept them moving forward despite the ever present setbacks. With characters so open to whatever life had to offer, it was impossible not to be drawn into their story.
I had expectations of where Hemingway’s Girl was going to take me when I started and I was even happier that the book went in an unexpected direction. I truly loved Mariella and her struggle to make a life for herself without sacrificing the happiness of her sisters. I stayed up well into the morning finishing this book and it was worth the many yawns and the near constant pull of my bed the next day. I can sleep when I’m dead so long as I have books like this to keep me awake and engaged while I’m alive.